Panthers continue payroll slash, cut LB Short

Updated: March 2, 2006, 7:45 PM ET
Associated Press

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The Carolina Panthers released linebacker Brandon Short on Thursday as they continued to slash their payroll to meet the NFL's salary cap.

Carolina Panthers

Tot Ast Solo FF Sack Int
59 41 18 0 1 0

Short's dismissal saved the team almost $2 million, and safety Mike Minter finalized a restructure of his contract that gave Carolina a $1.7 million cushion.

The two Thursday moves, coupled with Wednesday's $4 million cuts of veterans Brentson Buckner, Stephen Davis and Rod Smart, put the Panthers very close to the $94.5 million limit they must reach before the start of free agency.

The salary cap number could still change. It was set earlier Thursday when NFL owners voted to end talks with the players' union over a new contract. But later in the day, the league extended its deadline for free agency to begin by three days from Friday to Monday.

It now gives the union 72 more hours to negotiate a contract extension to the labor agreement that could add about $10 million.

The Panthers are one of the many NFL teams that desperately need that added cushion.

If the cap is not adjusted, it will leave the Panthers little room to work with in their pursuit of free agents -- including re-signing several of their own players.

Linebacker Will Witherspoon is expected to test the free-agent market and as of now, the Panthers don't have much money to compete with potential suitors.

Short's release, coupled with Witherspoon's now probable departure, would leave Carolina with oft-injured Dan Morgan as the only returning starting linebacker. The Panthers would likely turn to Thomas Davis, a first-round draft pick last year who bounced around between safety and linebacker during training camp before settling into a hybrid role of both positions.

Short signed with Carolina in 2004 after spending four years with the New York Giants, where he played on John Fox's defense. He played in 32 regular season games, starting 18, the past two years.

He was due a $250,000 roster bonus Friday.

Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press