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Panthers release Charles Johnson, who joins Mario Williams in free agency

Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

The Carolina Panthers have released defensive end Charles Johnson, the team announced today. Johnson was set to make $11 million this season, and cap-strapped Carolina just couldn't justify paying that to a defensive end who's struggled with injuries and declining production in recent years.

Johnson posted just one sack last year in nine games after managing 8.5 in 16 games in 2014. But Johnson had one sack in each of the Panthers' three playoff games this year, and his lack of production during the regular season can be seen as the consequence of recovering from a hamstring injury. Johnson averaged ten sacks per season from 2010 through 2014.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers should be somewhat interested in Charles Johnson, who could slide in and start at left defensive end to boost their pass rush. The fact that Dirk Koetter and Mike Smith have had to deal with Charles Johnson's pass rush for years on end probably won't hurt the chances of the team pursuing him.  But the team now has several edge rush options in free agency, including Mario Williams, Tamba Hali and Jason Pierre-Paul. While all of these players have some question marks and blemishes, any one of them would represent an improvement for Tampa Bay's pass rush.