Panthers sign former Colts starting DT Johnson for depth

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The Carolina Panthers signed Ed Johnson on Wednesday, adding a needed, run-stopping defensive tackle while taking a chance on a player with a checkered past.

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Financial terms of the one-year deal weren't disclosed.

Johnson, who's 6-foot-2 and 296 pounds, will be reunited with Panthers defensive coordinator Ron Meeks, who had the same job in Indianapolis in 2007 when the defensive tackle started in all 16 games for the Colts and recorded 63 tackles as an undrafted rookie.

Johnson's career has declined since. The Colts waived him early in the 2008 season following his arrest on a marijuana possession charge. He was re-signed, then cut again early last season because Colts coach Jim Caldwell said Johnson's play had slipped.

Johnson, 26, also ran into trouble at Penn State, where he was temporarily kicked out of school and later suspended from a bowl game.

The Panthers, who have been wary of signing and drafting players with off-the-field issues in the past several years, decided to take a chance on Johnson.

"We have done a lot of research on Ed," Panthers general manager Marty Hurney said in a statement released by the team. "When we took into account what people around him said and the impression we got when meeting with him in person, we felt comfortable giving him this opportunity."

Johnson will provide insurance for the Panthers while Maake Kemoeatu recovers from a ruptured Achilles' tendon that forced him to miss all of last season. Carolina had trouble replacing Kemoeatu before 36-year-old Hollis Thomas capably filled in to close the season.

Thomas will be an unrestricted free agent and might not be re-signed, leaving Johnson in a group of tackles that includes Damione Lewis, Tank Tayler and Louis Leonard.

What the rest of Carolina's defensive line will look like next season also is uncertain.

The Panthers still haven't announced if they will place the franchise tag on five-time Pro Bowl defensive end Julius Peppers by the Feb. 25 deadline and offer him a guaranteed $20.1 million for one season. The other starting defensive end from 2009, Tyler Brayton, will be an unrestricted free agent.

Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press

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