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Seventeen Panthers become free agents

Posted Mar 11, 2014

After franchising defensive end Greg Hardy, signing tight end /fullback Richie Brockel, kicker Graham Gano and offensive linemen Gary Williams to contract extensions, and tendering tackle Byron Bell and guard Chris Scott, the Panthers were left with 19 expiring contracts heading into free agency.

But that number has been reduced to 17. Offensive linemen Geoff Hangartner and Jeff Byers have retired.

Hangartner played nine NFL seasons at both guard and center, spending seven years with the Panthers and two with the Buffalo Bills. Originally a fifth-round draft choice by Carolina in 2005, Hangartner played in 118 games with 85 starts.

Byers, who also played both guard and center, spent four years in the NFL, including three with the Panthers. Originally signed as an undrafted free agent by the Seattle Seahawks, he played in 22 games and made seven starts.

Below is a breakdown of the Panthers' 17 free agents.

Unrestricted

QB Derek Anderson (re-signed with Panthers)

Anderson has backed up quarterback Cam Newton for the past three seasons, appearing in eight games. He played in four games in 2013 but did not attempt a pass.

OT Bruce Campbell

Drafted in the fourth round of the 2010 draft by the Oakland Raiders, the Panthers acquired Campbell via trade in 2012 and he played in five games. Campbell spent the entire 2013 season on injured reserve after suffering a left shoulder injury.

QB Jimmy Clausen

A second-round draft choice by the Panthers in 2010, Clausen played in 13 games with 10 starts as a rookie but has not appeared in a game since his rookie year. He spent the entire 2013 season on injured reserve with a right shoulder injury.

DT Colin Cole

Cole – a seven-year veteran – signed as a free agent with Carolina in 2013 after being out of football from 2011-12. He played in 15 games with 13 starts and recorded 19 tackles and one sack.

LB Dan Connor

After being waived from injured reserve by the New York Giants, Connor signed with the Panthers in November to provide linebacker depth and help on special teams. He appeared in five games and recorded two special teams tackles.

CB Drayton Florence

After signing as an unrestricted free agent with the Panthers last offseason, Florence was released in the final roster cutdown before being brought back three games into the 2013 season. The 11-year veteran played in 14 games with five starts. He recorded 26 tackles, two interceptions – including one pick-six – and four passes defensed.

WR Ted Ginn, Jr. (agreed to terms with Arizona Cardinals)

Ginn emerged as a dynamic No. 3 wide receiver in his first season with the Panthers. He played in 16 games with two starts and recorded 36 receptions for 556 yards and a career-high five receiving touchdowns. He also served as the team's kick and punt returner and set a franchise record with a 12.2-yard punt return average.

TE Ben Hartsock

Hartsock has served as a blocking tight end in Carolina for the past three seasons. He played in 13 games and did not record a reception in 2013. He had two receptions for 30 yards in 2012.

WR Domenik Hixon (agreed to terms with Chicago Bears)

An unrestricted free agent acquisition in 2013, Hixon played in 15 games and recorded seven receptions for 55 yards and one touchdown as Carolina's fourth wide receiver. His lone touchdown was one of the biggest plays of the Panthers' season – a 14-yard catch in the final seconds to defeat the New Orleans Saints in Week 16.

WR Brandon LaFell (agreed to terms with New England Patriots)

LaFell – a third-round draft choice by the Panthers in 2010 – started all 16 games in 2013 and recorded 49 receptions for 627 yards and five touchdowns. He worked primarily as the No. 2 wide receiver opposite Steve Smith and emerged as Carolina's best blocking wideout.

S Quintin Mikell

Mikell – an 11-year veteran – played in 14 games and started 12 after joining the team prior to the start of the regular season. The strong safety brought steadiness to the secondary and recorded 62 tackles, four passes defensed, two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery.

S Mike Mitchell (agreed to terms with Pittsburgh Steelers)

Signed as an unrestricted free agent last offseason after recording just nine starts in four seasons in Oakland, Mitchell brought a swagger and aggressiveness to the secondary and started 14 games at free safety. He registered 74 tackles, 3.5 sacks, two forced fumbles, five passes defensed and had a career-high four interceptions.

CB Captain Munnerlyn (agreed to terms with Minnesota Vikings)

Munnerlyn started all 16 games and had the best season of his five-year career in 2013. He recorded career highs of 74 tackles, 3.5 sacks and 12 passes defensed and returned both of his interceptions for touchdowns. Munnerlyn now holds the franchise record for career interception returns for touchdowns with five.

LB Jordan Senn (agreed to terms with Chicago Bears)

Senn played in 14 games as a key special teams contributor. He notched five special teams tackles in 2013, his fifth season with Carolina.

G Travelle Wharton

Wharton returned to Carolina in 2013 as a free agent after spending 2012 on injured reserve with the Cincinnati Bengals. He played in 16 games and started the final 12 games at left guard in place of an injured Amini Silatolu.

LB Jason Williams (re-signed with Panthers)

After being waived in the final roster cutdown, Williams rejoined to the Panthers in October and helped on special teams. The five-year veteran notched five special teams tackles and one blocked punt.


CB James Dockery (re-signed with Panthers)

The Panthers did not make a qualifying offer to Dockery, who would have been a restricted free agent. As a result, he becomes a free agent and is free to sign with any team. Dockery played in five games in 2013 – his second year with the Panthers – before being placed on injured reserve.