Panthers, Foster agree on three-year deal

The Carolina Panthers placed the transition tag on halfback DeShaun Foster to make sure he didn't hit the free agent market, Minutes before the start of free agency, the Panthers locked up Foster to a three-year deal.

Foster agreed to a three-year, $14.5 million contract Friday night that includes a $4.5 million signing bonus. The $14.5 million could end up being worth another $3 million based on escalators and incentives.

"Bringing DeShaun back was always very important to us,"
Carolina general manager Marty Hurney said Saturday. "He's a
playmaker, he is a guy that defenses have to account for, and he's
our kind of person. There was no doubt we wanted him back."

Foster became the third major free agent running back to decide to stay with his team. Shaun Alexander stayed with the Seahawks by signing an eight-year, $62 million contract. Ahman Green stayed with the Packers by signing a one-year deal at $2 million that could grow to $5 million based on incentives.

The Panthers placed a premium on keeping Foster after releasing Stephen Davis last month. Though Foster has fought some injuries, he's been a big back in many ways and has played well in big games. When Foster runs well, the Panthers usually get into the playoffs and do well.

"He made it very clear from [team owner] Mr. [Jerry] Richardson
and below that he wanted to be here," Hurney said. "He never
indicated to us otherwise. And that's very important to us, a guy
who wants to be here."

On Friday, Foster received a $700,000 raise on his $5.150 million transition tender thanks to a calculating change in the transition and franchise tenders because of the new collective bargaining agreement. Foster is the first of the five remaining franchise or transition players to sign.

In another Carolina transaction, the Panthers took a precautionary move in one case, signing
punter Micah Knorr just in case they lose Jason Baker to free
agency. Baker led the NFC in net punting average last season at
38.9 yards per punt, and his agent has indicated he plans to test
the market.

Knorr, who spent the 2005 preseason with the New York Jets, did
not play last season.

Later Saturday, the Panthers agreed to terms with defensive
tackle Maake Kemoeatu, who spent the past four seasons with the
Baltimore Ravens, and came to terms with backup quarterback Chris
Weinke on a three-year extension.

Kemoeatu agreed to a five-year deal worth $23 million, including
$8 million in bonus money. The Panthers needed him because they
waived veteran tackle Brentson Buckner last week and Kris Jenkins
missed most of the past two seasons with injury.

Weinke was the starter in 2001, when the Panthers went 1-15, but
lost his job to Rodney Peete the next season. Jake Delhomme was
signed a year later, and Weinke is now his backup.

John Clayton is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.