Panthers release Charles Johnson

(MGN Online)

CHARLOTTE – Veteran defensive end Charles Johnson has been released by the Panthers.

Johnson, selected in the third round of the 2007 NFL Draft, ranks second to Julius Peppersin franchise history in sacks and forced fumbles.

He had one year remaining on his contract. Making the move gives the Panthers significant salary cap relief and opens the door for young players to get more opportunities.

"It's a tough day. Charles is a solid pro," head coach Ron Rivera said. "I appreciate everything he's done for the organization. We are who we are today because of who he is and what he's done for us."

Johnson didn't record a sack this past season but has 67.5 in his 11-year career to go with 19 forced fumbles (Peppers has 92 sacks and 33 forced fumbles in nine seasons with the Panthers). Johnson paced the Panthers in sacks four of the first five seasons after Peppers' first stint with the team ended following the 2009 season.

Since last leading the Panthers in sacks in 2014, Johnson has totaled five sacks the past three seasons. He spent seven games on injured reserve with a hamstring injury in 2015 and recorded just one sack in the regular season, though he did return to record three sacks and two forced fumbles in the playoffs.

Hamstring and foot concerns cost Johnson three games in 2016, when he recorded four sacks, then he had back surgery last offseason. Johnson was suspended for four games in December for violation of the NFL policy on performance-enhancing substances before returning to play in the regular season finale, but he was a healthy scratch for the NFC Wild Card at New Orleans.

Around the same time Monday, the Panthers released safety Kurt Coleman, a starter the past three seasons. The team also waived offensive tackle John Theus, who was signed off waivers early last season but didn't appear in any games.