Carolina Panthers

Charles Johnson returns to Carolina on one-year deal after being cut last week

Days after getting cut to save salary cap space, Carolina defensive end Charles Johnson returned to team on a one-year deal.
Days after getting cut to save salary cap space, Carolina defensive end Charles Johnson returned to team on a one-year deal. AP

Less than a week after being cut by the Carolina Panthers, Charles Johnson will rejoin the only NFL team he’s played for.

According to a league source Tuesday night, Johnson plans to re-sign with the Panthers this week after the team cut him in an effort to save $11 million in cap room.

The source said Johnson’s one-year contract is worth $3 million.

“My heart was in Carolina,” Johnson said in a statement. “Once you put all that energy into it, I feel like I would have been wasting all that work had I gone somewhere else for some dollars. I’d rather be happy doing what I’m doing around people that I know, and I’m comfortable with. I can’t wait to get back to work.”

Johnson, a nine-year veteran, signed a six-year contract in 2011 worth $76 million. This would have been the final year of that deal, which would have cost $15 million against the salary cap.

The Panthers cut him last week and thanked him for his services, clearing the cap room. But even in the hours after Johnson’s cut, those close to him wouldn’t rule out a return to the Panthers with a smaller contract.

Johnson met with the New York Giants over the weekend and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Tuesday. Johnson told ESPN reporter Josina Anderson that he was close to signing in New York.

According to a league source, Johnson turned down an offer of $6 million from at least one other team to stay in Charlotte.

Johnson is second in franchise history in sacks (63  1/2) and forced fumbles (17). After being relatively healthy his entire career, Johnson suffered a hamstring injury that sent him to the temporary injured reserve during the 2015 season.

He appeared in nine regular-season games and had just one sack, though he registered three sacks in three postseason games.

The news of Johnson re-signing in Carolina came on a day when some of the top free-agent defensive ends – Malik Jackson, Jason Pierre-Paul and Mario Williams – were locked into deals, though the Panthers weren’t in the running for any of them.

If healthy in 2016, Johnson projects to be a starter opposite Kony Ealy. This one-year signing still doesn’t rule out the potential for the Panthers to draft a defensive end high in April’s draft.

Jonathan Jones: 704-358-5323, @jjones9

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