The Carolina Panthers got four important young players under contract for next season on Friday when they tendered punter Michael Palardy, wide receiver Damiere Byrd, offensive lineman Tyler Larsen and tight end Chris Manhertz.
All were exclusive rights free agents, defined by the NFL as players with two or fewer seasons of service time with expiring contracts. The Panthers’ tenders, or contract offers at league-mandated salaries, keep them with the team.
The Panthers had two other exclusive-rights players – defensive lineman Drew Iddings, who was signed to a one-year contract, and offensive lineman Dan France, who was not tendered.
Carolina kept Palardy over veteran punter Andy Lee last summer, and the left-footer responded with a net punting average of 42.4 yards, which broke a team record and ranked fifth in the NFL.
Byrd, a former sprinter on South Carolina’s track team, posted career highs with 10 catches for 105 yards and two touchdowns before going down with a season-ending leg injury in December. Byrd also missed two months with a broken forearm earlier in the season.
Larsen has started 15 games over the past two seasons, filling in for injured center Ryan Kalil. Larsen is expected to have a chance to compete for the left guard spot with Andrew Norwell set to leave in free agency.
Manhertz was the Panthers’ No. 3 tight end last season, but could move up the depth chart depending on what happens with backup Ed Dickson, another free agent.
The Panthers have until the start of the new league year at 4 p.m. Wednesday to tender contracts to their four restricted free agents – cornerback LaDarius Gunter, wideout Kaelin Clay, offensive lineman David Yankey and tight end Scott Simonson.