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Panthers release veteran DE Charles Johnson

The Carolina Panthers announced they have parted ways with defensive end Charles Johnson on Thursday.

The 29-year-old pass rusher was a candidate for release due to his $15 million salary-cap hit in 2016. Carolina will save $11 million in cap space with approximately $4 million in dead money.

"Charles was an impact player for the Carolina Panthers for a long time, both on and off the field," general manager Dave Gettleman said in a statement. "His statistics speak for themselves, and as a team captain he led the way you want your leaders to lead -- by example. I wish him the best moving forward."

Johnson issued the following tweet after his release:

Johnson spent nine seasons with the Panthers as a primer pass rusher for much of his career, compiling 63.5 sacks. However, he earned just one sack and seven tackles in nine regular season games in 2015.

At the NFL Scouting Combine last week, Gettleman twice danced around questions about whether Johnson would be on the roster in 2016 at his $10.75 million salary. The GM citied the pass rusher's injury history as a reason for wavering.

"We're still going through that evaluation," Gettleman said at the time. "It's hard because he got hurt. He starts out, he got hurt, then he is working his way back and it's like, alright, when is he 100 percent? So we are still going through that process."

The process eventually led to Johnson's release.

USA Today's Tom Pelissero reported the Panthers offered Johnson a pay cut before his release. Instead the defensive end will test the open waters. It wouldn't be a shock if Johnson returned if he receives no better offers in free agency.

Names like Mario Williams -- a North Carolina native -- will be linked to the Panthers this offseason, but don't expect Gettleman to splurge on a big-money player, that's not his style.

Instead the Panthers will likely use the extra cap space to lock down their own players and make periphery additions.

Cutting Johnson paves the way for Kony Ealy -- who made huge splash plays in the Super Bowl -- to get more snaps. The Panthers also reportedly like their young defensive ends Arthur Miley and Rakim Cox.

The team also announced that they have released defensive tackle Dwan Edwards.

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