Hackett among Panthers' cap cuts

Updated: February 25, 2009, 3:37 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

The Carolina Panthers have made their first moves to clear salary-cap room after signing Jordan Gross to a six-year, $56.4 million contract last week and franchising defensive end Julius Peppers.

On Wednesday, they released wide receiver D.J. Hackett, running back Nick Goings and offensive lineman Jeremy Bridges.

The moves saved the Panthers $4.74 million in cap space. Recently, they turned a $10 million roster bonus scheduled for cornerback Chris Gamble into a guarantee, which saved the Panthers another $8 million.

The team also restructured the contract of linebacker Landon Johnson.

Nothing has happened to cornerback Ken Lucas, who remains on the roster despite an $8.33 million cap number. It's unlikely the team would release him, but it is possible they might listen to trade requests from other teams.

"Ken's here at this point," general manager Marty Hurney said. "We're always talking and working on things. But I'd rather talk about what we've done at this point because anything else is speculation."

Hackett was signed to a two-year, $3.5 million free-agent deal before last season, but he was a disappointment in 2008. Plagued by injuries, the ex-Seahawk never challenged Muhsin Muhammad for the No. 2 receiver job and eventually fell behind Dwayne Jarrett on the depth chart.

Hackett, who caught just 13 passes for 181 yards, probably had his fate sealed when he was on the inactive list for Carolina's playoff loss to Arizona, while Jarrett was the No. 3 receiver.

Bridges was a valuable reserve who could play both guard and tackle and started 28 games in three seasons with Carolina.

"Jeremy's flexibility meant a lot to the football team," coach John Fox said in a statement.

But Bridges turns 29 in April and carried baggage off the field.

Bridges was suspended for the first two games of the 2007 season after being arrested -- and later convicted -- of a misdemeanor assault charge after being accused of pointing a gun at a woman outside a strip club.

A costly Gamble

NFL.com Video

Jay Cutler tries to squeeze the ball into a tight spot and Chris Gamble makes him pay.

Bridges started four games because of injuries to other players last season, but was held out of a December win against Tampa Bay, less than 24 hours after he was arrested again on a misdemeanor assault charge in connection with a disturbance at a restaurant. Bridges has a court hearing scheduled for Monday.

Hurney sidestepped a question of whether Bridges' legal problems weighed in the decision.

"There will be some changes for us as far as getting some new guys in here, probably younger guys," Hurney said. "That was the impetus behind it. Every year your team has to take a different look."

Goings had the longest stint of the three in Carolina. Signed as an undrafted free agent in 2001, Goings was used primarily on special teams except in 2004. Because of other players' injuries, Goings led the Panthers that season with 821 yards rushing.

He played in only four games in 2007 because a concussion, but returned last season as a contributor on special teams.

"Nick has been a valuable member of our team since I have been in Carolina," Fox said. "As a starter or in a reserve role, his versatility and contributions on special teams, along with his unselfish attitude, were important to our team and locker room."

Information from The Associated Press and ESPN.com NFL senior writer John Clayton contributed to this report.

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