With an extensive to-do list this offseason, the Carolina Panthers are expected to release Chris Gamble as their first major move of 2013. Releasing the 29-year-old veteran cornerback appears to be a smart move in regards to the franchise's salary cap issue.
The Panthers are currently $15 million over the $121.1 million salary cap. According to Joseph Person of the Charlotte Observer, Gamble will likely be cut within the next month, as teams need to be below the cap by March 12.
Gamble will cost Carolina $10.95 million in cap space next season. As James Dator of Cat Scratch Reader says, cutting the team's second-highest paid player is too valuable of a move to ignore.
New general manager Dave Gettleman was brought last month to "fix things," as the Panthers haven't been to the playoffs since 2008. He will hard pressed to make any significant moves until they shave down their massive salary cap.
Gamble is still one of the league's top cornerbacks when healthy, but his feature looks bleak in Carolina. Two factors are working against Gamble here. First, he was placed on injured reserve with a shoulder injury after playing just four games in 2012. He also missed five games in 2010. Durability was never a concern for him throughout the early stages of his career, but he's been ailing more often in recent years.
Gamble will also turn 30 the day before teams must be under the salary cap. He still has the ability to lock down opposing wideouts, but a multi-year deal will be less attractive at this age. Right now he's set to be the sixth-highest paid corner in the league with a base salary of $7.95 million. That won't be the case if he is forced to sign with another team.
Several veteran corners will be on the market when free agency begins. If Gamble is sent packing, he will enter a market that is relatively deep for 2013. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie will likely headline the list, assuming the Eagles part ways with him. Soon to be 27, DRC is a younger option. Aqib Talib will have to sign a "very fair" contract if he wants to stick around in New England. Issues off the field stand out, but there's no denying the talent there.
Cortland Finnegan signed a five-year, $50 million contract with the Rams last offseason at the age of 29. If Gamble can prove he's healthy, he'll be highly coveted on the market. He may not receive a deal of that magnitude, but he can demand a fairly large deal with his track record.
As for the Panthers, they may be forced to address their cornerback depth through the NFL Draft. Captain Munnerlyn was beat out by rookie Josh Norman in training camp. He finished the year starting after Gamble went down. Norman was rated a -6.9 overall by Pro Football Focus. Carolina needs another corner to fill the Gamble void.