Salary-cap status: Carolina Panthers

Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

The Carolina Panthers are next in our team-by-team series of updates on where each NFC South team stands regarding the salary cap.

Keep in mind, these numbers are very much in flux at the moment as teams sign players to future contracts and incentives reached in 2008 haven't been factored in yet. The cap is expected to be $123 million.

Salary-cap status: $10 million under the salary cap.

Overview: Don't get too excited by that number because it's very deceiving. The Panthers are trying to re-sign offensive tackle Jordan Gross, whose value got a big boost with an All-Pro season, and defensive end Julius Peppers. Re-signing both or re-signing one and using the franchise tag on the other would put the Panthers well over the salary cap, no matter how the deals are structured. Carolina has to clear room somewhere and cornerback Ken Lucas, who's carrying a big cap number and didn't have a good second half of the season, could be a target for release or restructure. Wide receiver D.J. Hackett, a free-agent pickup who didn't work out, also looks likely to be gone. The Panthers also have a lot of veterans whose contracts can be restructured to free up some cap room. But don't look for Carolina to do much in free agency because the Panthers aren't going to have much room to work with.