The Panthers saved $11 million in cap space by releasing Johnson, who was set to earn $15.02 million in 2016, and were reportedly going to re-sign him to a one year deal worth $3 million -- having turned down offers worth $6 million from other teams.
"It's not about the money. Carolina is home and I wouldn't have been happy if I went somewhere else," Johnson told Josina Anderson.
Johnson took meetings with the Giants and Buccaneers, but was quick to head back to Carolina to work on his return. Having spent nine years with the Panthers, and coming off a Super Bowl loss, it's no surprise the defensive end wanted to try and make things work with Carolina.
Since the team drafted Johnson in the third round of the 2007 NFL Draft, he has been a key contributor on defense. He recorded 63.5 sacks in his nine seasons in Carolina, but only one came in 2015, following a lingering hamstring injury that landed him on the injured reserve/designated to return list.
This was going to be the last year under Johnson's former contract, meaning the team could not only get him cheaper, but longer than maybe could've been possible without having released him first.