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Former Appalachian star Armanti Edwards released by Carolina Panthers

By Joseph Person
jperson@charlotteobserver.com

Poll

How would you rate Armanti Edwards' performance as a Panther?

The Armanti Edwards Experiment is over in Charlotte – and apparently, so is the Panthers’ recent penchant for remaining loyal to players despite their productivity levels.

Tuesday’s release of Edwards, the Appalachian State quarterback turned NFL wide receiver, came five days after the Panthers traded veteran linebacker Jon Beason to the Giants for a conditional, late-round draft pick next year.

This is not to compare the talent and tenure of Edwards, who had five receptions in three-plus seasons with Carolina, to Beason, who went to three consecutive Pro Bowls and was a tackling force before injuries caught up with him.

But the two moves seemed to signal a changing of the guard under first-year general manager Dave Gettleman, who was not around when former GM Marty Hurney traded a second-round draft pick to New England to take Edwards in the third round in 2010.

The pick Hurney traded wound up being the 33rd overall, which the Patriots used on cornerback Ras-I Dowling, whom they cut in August. Baltimore receiver Torrey Smith, Minnesota tight end Kyle Rudolph and Green Bay wide receiver Randall Cobb were among the non-quarterbacks picked in the second round that year (the Panthers had taken quarterback Cam Newton in the first round).

The Panthers drafted two college quarterbacks in 2010 – Jimmy Clausen and Edwards – although their intention always was to transform Edwards into a receiver and return specialist.

That switch never took.

Edwards averaged 5.5 yards per punt return in 2011, which ranked last among players with at least 20 returns. Edwards had a pair of big plays last season – an 82-yard reception at Washington and a 69-yard punt return at New Orleans, but failed to score on each.

Edwards had no catches in four games this season after Panthers coach Ron Rivera called him the training camp MVP at Wofford.

Hamstring injuries to Edwards and free agent acquisition Domenik Hixon during the preseason allowed Ted Ginn Jr. to solidify the No. 3 wideout spot. With Ginn also handling the return duties, the 5-11, 190-pound Edwards was no longer a factor on special teams, either.

Edwards, a Greenwood, S.C., native, remained something of a folk hero in the Carolinas because of his exploits at Appalachian State, where he led the Mountaineers to two national titles, plus one of college football’s biggest upsets, at No. 5 Michigan in 2007. Edwards also was the first two-time winner of the Walter Payton Award, which goes to best offensive player in the Football Championship Subdivision.

Attempts to reach Edwards through his agent Tuesday were unsuccessful.

The Panthers did not announce any corresponding roster moves.

Person: 704-358-5123; Twitter: @josephperson
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