The Carolina Panthers have released veteran linebacker James Anderson, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter on Twitter. The move comes just hours prior to the start of the new league year and the opening of free agency.
Anderson was set to make $2.9 million in 2013, after signing a five-year, $22 million contract following the lockout a couple years ago. Now that the Panthers are hurting for cap space with some big needs on the horizon. They want to re-sign guys like Captain Munnerlyn and releasing Anderson is the first step in being able to do something like that.
It's not that Anderson hasn't been worth the money. The contract itself seemed a little big at the time, but a near-$3 million cap hit isn't unreasonable for Anderson, who is probably a starting linebacker on many teams in the NFL. Unfortunately for him, guys like Luke Kuechly, Jon Beason and Thomas Davis are forcing Anderson into a backup role.
At this point, the Panthers can't pay a backup linebacker the kind of money that Anderson was set to make. He'll immediately be able to sign with other teams near the free agency window anyway. It's likely there will be a market for him, but at 29 years of age and seven years of experience, this might be his last chance to land a big contract by his standards.