While Charles Johnson’s future remains in limbo, the Carolina Panthers are moving forward with efforts to bolster their stock of defensive ends.
Free-agent pass rusher Quinton Coples, a former first-round pick from North Carolina, was in Charlotte on Tuesday to meet with the Panthers and take a physical, according to multiple sources with knowledge of the situation.
The New York Jets took Coples with the 16th overall pick in the 2012 draft. Coples succeeded in his rookie season with 5 1/2 sacks but that growth slowed when he was moved to outside linebacker the following year.
He had 11 sacks in the next two seasons, and the Jets picked up his fifth-year option. But under new coach Todd Bowles last season, Coples saw his playing time diminish as his production slipped. The Jets cut him before Thanksgiving.
Miami claimed him off waivers but Coples did little in six games with the Dolphins.
A Kinston native, Coples enjoyed a solid four-year career that saw him named first-team All-ACC his junior season with the Tar Heels.
The Panthers met with Coples a couple times before the 2012 draft and there was speculation they might take him with the ninth overall pick. Instead, they chose Luke Kuechly, who quickly became the NFL’s top middle linebacker.
The Panthers received little production last season from veteran defensive ends Jared Allen and Johnson, who combined for three sacks. Allen retired last month while Johnson is expected to take a big pay cut if he wants to stay on the roster.
Johnson, 29, is set to make $10.75 million this year, with a $15 million salary cap charge. The Panthers could realize $11 million in cap savings if they cut Johnson, a team captain who received a six-year, $76 million extension in 2011.
Staff writer Jonathan Jones contributed.