What you’re seeing out of Carolina right now might be a sign of things to come for the Panthers and the rest of the league.
Jerry Richardson is going to be one of the most proactive owners in dealing with the current labor situation and the possibility of a lockout in 2011. That’s why the Panthers let defensive tackle Damione Lewis go and that’s why it now is being reported the other starting defensive tackle, Maake Kemoeatu, has been released.
Kemoeatu was a pretty ordinary defensive tackle, but his absence seemed like a big deal last year because the Panthers had no depth when he went down with an injury on the first day of training camp. Kemoeatu is still recovering from that injury, isn’t getting younger and was scheduled to make more than $4 million.
With Lewis and Kemoeatu gone, the Panthers have nothing but journeymen at defensive tackle. They’ll have to address the position heavily in free agency or in the draft. But I’m guessing the Panthers use the draft more because they aren’t going to be big players in free agency. Right now, it looks like Richardson is more interested in saving money than in spending it.
I didn’t mention the release of Jake Delhomme as a cost-cutting move. That’s largely because the Panthers are on the hook to Delhomme for almost $13 million. But they’ll take that cap hit in an uncapped year. They won’t have any hit remaining if a cap does return in 2011 and they won’t have any future obligations to Delhomme.