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Panthers continue payroll slash, cut LB Short

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.

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.