<
>

Panthers cut two draft picks in Sanchez, Sandland, but keep Jeremy Cash, Damiere Byrd

The Panthers cut 2016 fifth-rounder Zack Sanchez but would like to bring him back on the practice squad. Joshua Lindsey/USA TODAY Sports

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The Carolina Panthers made 22 player moves on Saturday, trimming the roster to the NFL-mandated 53 players. Here's a closer look at the final cuts:

Most significant move: The Panthers didn’t cut a draft pick in Dave Gettleman’s first three years as a general manager, but this year they cut two in fifth-round pick Zack Sanchez and seventh-rounder Beau Sandland. The release of Sanchez, one of three cornerbacks signed in Gettleman’s attempt to replace 2015 Pro Bowl selection Josh Norman, was most significant. Sanchez wasn’t a serious contender for a starting job, and he likely was no better than third in line at nickel behind Bene' Benwikere, Colin Jones or Robert McClain. But the Panthers like Sanchez, and they’d like to sign him to the practice squad. Sandland never pushed Scott Simonson for the third tight end spot. He also could be added to the practice squad.

Most significant non-move: The decision to keep outside linebacker Jeremy Cash and wide receiver Damiere Byrd, both undrafted players. Cash, undrafted out of Duke this year, came in undersized but has beefed up 16 pounds to 220. He became a force on special teams. The reigning ACC Defensive Player of the Year has the athletic ability to be a Thomas Davis-type every-down player with his ability to blitz, cover and stop the run. Davis was a safety out of Georgia when taken in the first round of the 2005 draft, but he transformed into a Pro Bowl outside linebacker. Byrd was undrafted out of South Carolina last year. He returned after a year on the practice squad more polished as both a receiver and a returner, where he can help this team the most. He looks like a threat to break one every time he touches the ball. He’s arguably the fastest player on the roster.

Most surprising move: Second-year running back Brandon Wegher looked to be a lock on special teams after playing the second most to Cash in the last two preseason games. But to keep him would have meant keeping five running backs. There was no way Wegher would get on the field behind Jonathan Stewart, Mike Tolbert, Cameron Artis-Payne and Fozzy Whittaker. Carolina hopes to stash Wegher on the practice squad.

Killer B's plus two: Wide receivers coach Ricky Proehl has been telling us how much deeper the position is this year than the past three, and the final roster is telling. Carolina kept six receivers, one more than they have in recent years. Kelvin Benjamin (6-foot-5), Devin Funchess (6-4), Ted Ginn Jr. (5-11) and Philly Brown (5-11) were givens. There wasn’t much doubt that Brenton Bersin (6-3) would be back, as well. Keeping Damiere Byrd (5-9) gives Proehl weapons in all sizes and speeds.

Panthers’ moves: Waived -- RB Brandon Wegher; CB Zack Sanchez; TE Eric Wallace; DT Eric Crume; DE Arthur Miley; TE Marcus Lucas; OL David Yankey; WR Keyarris Garrett; S Marcus Ball; S Travell Dixon; TE Beau Sandland; RB Jalen Simmons; DT Robert Thomas; DE Larry Webster; CB Lou Young; LB Brian Blechen. Terminated/vested veteran -- S Stevie Brown; DT Kyle Love. Injured reserve -- Ben Jacobs; Kevin Norwood; Jordan Rigsbee. Suspension -- G Chris Scott.