CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The Carolina Panthers have released 16 players to trim their roster to 74, one fewer than the NFL-mandated 75 players. Here’s a closer look at the first cuts:
Most significant move: The release of veteran punter Mike Scifres. The Panthers thought he could replace Brad Nortman, but the former San Diego Chargers punter injured his kicking (right) knee on his only attempt of the preseason last Friday against New England. Carolina covered its bases, though, trading with Cleveland on Monday for three-time Pro Bowler Andy Lee. This actually is an upgrade from Scifres, but Carolina did have to take on a larger salary-cap hit and trade a 2018 fourth-round pick to get Lee.
Comeback over: Stephen Hill’s attempt to come back from last year's season-ending knee injury is over. The 6-foot-4 wide receiver never got back to the level he was at last preseason, when he was battling for a starting spot. The fact that the Panthers already have two big receivers -- Kelvin Benjamin (6-5) and Devin Funchess (6-4) -- and that Hill never turned heads with his performance in this year's camp made him expendable. Hill's release was also a statement about Carolina’s improved depth at receiver.
Canadian experiment over: Remember when undrafted rookie left tackle David Foucault started a prime-time game against New Orleans in 2014? It was a disaster. But the Panthers kept working with the LaSalle, Quebec, native in hopes that his talent would match his 6-8, 305-pound frame. It never did. Again, Foucault’s departure says something about the team's improved depth on the line.
Practice-squad candidate: Braxton Deaver, an undrafted rookie tight end out of Duke, had his best days in the May rookie camp and offseason workouts. There were times when it appeared he might compete for the Panthers' third tight end spot. But as Pro Bowler Greg Olsen has reminded us several times, it takes a while to master everything tight ends are required to do in Carolina’s system. Deaver still could be re-signed for the practice squad.
Panthers' moves: Cut WR Hill, OT Foucault, TE Deaver, P Scifres, OT Willie Smith, LB Jared Barber, WR Avius Capers, C Reese Dismukes, DT Ray Drew, DE Tom Lally, C Matt Masifilo, WR Miles Shuler, S Trenton Robinson, WR LaRon Byrd, DE Rakim Cox. CB Leonard Johnson on NFI/injured reserve.