New Carolina GM will face cap challenge

I’ve been looking at 2013 salary-cap figures and it’s pretty obvious that whoever takes over as general manager of the Carolina Panthers is going to face a pretty difficult situation.

The Panthers, who fired general manager Marty Hurney on Monday, already have just about $130 million committed toward next year’s salary cap. The exact cap for next year won’t be set until the offseason, but it’s safe to say Carolina’s commitment will put the Panthers at least $5 million over the cap. I’m seeing only five teams with more cap room already tied up for 2013.

This isn’t quite a crisis situation, but the Panthers have only 46 players under contract for 2013. They’ll have to sign a draft class that likely will include a top-10 pick and they might want to re-sign a few of their own free agents and pursue free agents from other teams.

It’s too early to even speculate who the Panthers might want to re-sign and what free agents they might want to chase because we have no idea who the new general manager will be and current coach Ron Rivera seems to be in the same lame-duck zone John Fox occupied in 2010.

But I do think it’s safe to say that no matter who is running the show, there will be some major changes in Carolina in the offseason and it’s a virtual certainty that some veterans will have to go to create some cap space and others will have to restructure their contracts.

I’m looking at some individual cap figures and wondering if linebacker James Anderson ($4.4 million), linebacker Jon Beason ($9.5 million), defensive tackle Ron Edwards ($3.3 million), cornerback Chris Gamble ($10.9 million), tackle Jordan Gross ($11.7 million), defensive end Charles Johnson ($13 million), center Ryan Kalil ($9.85 million), receiver Steve Smith ($5.7 million) and running back DeAngelo Williams ($8.2 million) can all stay with the team in 2013.

I seriously doubt it. Some could be asked to restructure their deals and I think Smith and Gross at least could ponder retirement. But I think the Panthers will have to release at least a few significant players to create some cap room.