The Panthers trimmed their roster to 53 players Saturday without cutting any of their own draft picks or creating much intrigue.
The majority of the moves were straightforward, with the exception of three players who were cut after starting at least four games in 2013 – cornerback Josh Thomas, strong safety Robert Lester and guard Chris Scott.
Of the 22 cuts the Panthers made Saturday, none involved one of their draft choices from this year or previous drafts.
Former running back Kenjon Barner, the Panthers’ sixth-round pick in 2013, was waived/injured by Philadelphia, costing Carolina a draft pick. The Panthers sent Barner to the Eagles on Aug. 19 for a conditional seventh-round pick the Panthers would receive only if Barner made Philadelphia’s 53-man roster.
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Second-year wideout Tavarres King was among the Panthers’ cuts, as the team kept local product Brenton Bersin and undrafted rookie Philly Brown, currently the top punt and kick returner.
After the Panthers overhauled their receiving corps during the offseason, King and Marvin McNutt were the only wideouts left from last year’s active roster, and there was talk general manager Dave Gettleman might have discovered his next Victor Cruz.
Five months later, both King and McNutt are gone.
Bersin, the former Wofford standout whose father lived in the same cul-de-sac as Panthers owner Jerry Richardson, made the team out of training camp in his third try. Bersin caught seven passes for 116 yards to finish as the second-leading receiver during the exhibition season behind first-round pick Kelvin Benjamin.
The Panthers only have five receivers on the roster, and could look to sign another wideout and/or returner.
The Jets waived wideout Stephen Hill, the second-round pick from 2012 who has a connection to Panthers receivers coach Ricky Proehl. Hill’s agent is Alan Herman, who represented Proehl during his playing career.
Herman hopes the Panthers will put in a waiver claim on Hill, saying Proehl “could do wonders” for the 6-5 receiver who struggled with dropped passes during the preseason.
By virtue of their 12-4 record last season, the Panthers are 28th in line for waiver claims until Week 4, when the order is determined by teams’ records.
Three contributors from last season’s NFC South-champion team were let go Saturday, including two in the secondary.
Thomas started six games in 2013, and 10 games during his three seasons in Carolina. But he fell behind several other young corners – starter Melvin White, rookie Bene’ Benwikere and Josh Norman, whose solid preseason helped restore the coaching staff’s faith in him.
Lester played in 12 games, with four starts, after the Panthers signed him last year as an undrafted free agent out of Alabama. Lester posted 21 tackles, three interceptions, four pass breakups and one fumble recovery while splitting time with veteran Quintin Mikell.
The Panthers added strong safety Roman Harper during the offseason. And though Harper missed most of the preseason with a toe injury, Lester failed to take advantage of the increased reps.
Veteran Charles Godfrey recently started taking reps at his former safety position after moving to nickel corner during the offseason.
Scott, 27, started eight games last year for the Panthers, who signed him last summer after he failed Buffalo’s conditioning test. Scott missed six games after injuring his knee against Atlanta on Nov. 3, and Nate Chandler replaced him in the starting lineup.
Scott, 6-4 and 345 pounds, struggled with his weight and conditioning. He missed several practices during organized team activities after leaving one session early with heat-related symptoms.
Scott’s release leaves rookie Trai Turner as the likely starter at right guard, although the third-round pick from LSU missed the final two exhibitions with a groin injury.
In addition to Turner, the Panthers kept two undrafted rookies along the offensive line – guard Andrew Norwell from Ohio State and tackle David Foucault from the University of Montreal. The Panthers originally planned to cut Foucault, but did not want to expose the 6-8, 305-pound French-Canadian to waivers, according to league sources.
Foucault, the No. 5 overall pick in the CFL draft, has made a lot of progress since signing with the Panthers after a tryout at their rookie minicamp in May. But the former hockey player is still considered a project.