- Associated Press - Thursday, March 3, 2016

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) - Charles Johnson’s nine-year run with the Carolina Panthers is over.

The team released the 29-year-old defensive end on Thursday, a move that will save it $11 million under the salary cap. The team will carry $4 million of “dead money” on this year’s cap left over from the remainder of Johnson’s prorated signing bonus.

Carolina also released 34-year-old defensive tackle Dwan Edwards, a move that opens up an additional $1.6 million in cap space, and backup offensive tackle Nate Chandler. And Carolina re-signed backup free agent offensive guard Chris Scott to a one-year contract. Terms of that deal were not announced.

Johnson started nine games for the Panthers in 2015, but struggled with hamstring injuries and missed seven games while on short-term injured reserve.

He had one sack in the regular season and three sacks in three postseason games.

Johnson has a career total of 63½ sacks, second most in franchise history behind Julius Peppers’ 81. He made at least nine sacks in four consecutive years from 2010-13 and had a career-high 12½ sacks in 2012.

“Charles was an impact player for the Carolina Panthers for a long time, both on and off the field,” Panthers 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 seemed to take the news in stride. He took to Twitter on Thursday after the move was announced, tweeting, “@Panthers Love, Respect, and Hard Work #PantherPride.”

Johnson joins another top defensive end, Mario Williams, on the free agent market.

The move means the Panthers must replace both starting defensive ends from last season. Jared Allen retired earlier this offseason.

Kony Ealy, who had three sacks and an interception in the Super Bowl, is expected to take over at one of those spots; the other remains vacant. The Panthers recently visited with former Jets and Dolphins defensive end Quinton Coples, but no agreement has been reached.

The Panthers could address the need in the draft or free agency.

“Charles has had a very good career as a Carolina Panther and I’ve enjoyed coaching him the past five seasons,” coach Ron Rivera said. “Charles fought through adversity with his injury last season and set a great example for our locker room as a captain. I have a great deal of respect for Charles as a player and a person and thank him for all the contributions he has made to this team.”

He is one of three players in franchise history to have 10 or more sacks in at least three seasons.

Johnson, a third-round draft pick out of Georgia in 2007, forced 17 fumbles during his career, which also ranks second in team history. He played in 118 regular-season games for the Panthers, third most for a defensive lineman in team history behind Mike Rucker’s 139 games and Peppers’ 122.

Edwards spent four seasons with the Panthers. He appeared in 12 games in 2015 and had 14 tackles and one sack.

___

Online:

AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and AP NFL Twitter feed: http://twitter.com/AP_NFL

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