INDIANAPOLIS -- Unable to reconcile paying a $10 million roster bonus due next week, and convinced an agreement to restructure his prohibitive contract could not be struck, the Panthers on Friday terminated the contract of wide receiver Muhsin Muhammad.
The move had been anticipated for several weeks and, other than the timing of the announcement, Muhammad's release was hardly surprising.
"Our efforts to get a contract extension were unsuccessful and we have decided to release him," general manager Marty Hurney said. "Muhsin has been a valuable member of our team and we appreciate everything he has done for the Panthers."
The nine-year veteran, a second-round choice in the 1996 draft, has played his entire NFL career with the Panthers. Muhammad is expected to generate considerable interest as a free agent; if his release was filed in time Friday afternoon to be on the official transactions report, Muhammad is already a free agent and able to speak with other teams.
Agent Joel Segal, attending the predraft scouting combine here, declined comment until he could determine his client's official standing with the league. But in recent days, Setgal had conceded that Muhammad probably had played his final game in a Panthers uniform.
The crux of the problem for Carolina was a $10 million bonus due next week, and which was negotiated into Muhammad's contract when it was reworked last year. The two sides essentially inserted the signing bonus to force a decision on Muhammad prior to the start of the free agent signing period Wednesday.
Under the contract, Muhammad was due a base salary of just $650,000. But the roster bonus and other prorated costs raised his salary-cap charge to $12.5 million.
A former Michigan State standout, Muhammad is coming off the finest all-around season of his career. He had 93 catches for 1,405 yards and 16 touchdowns, and was on the NFC Pro Bowl squad. Most impressive about Muhammad's 2004 season was that it came without fellow receiver Steve Smith on the field. Smith suffered a season-ending broken leg in the first game of the year, taking away the Panthers' premier deep-ball threat. Despite facing weekly double-team coverage in Smith's absence, Muhammad flourished and he led the NFL in receiving yards.
For his career, Muhammad has 578 receptions for 7,751 yards and 44 touchdowns. He has five seasons of 60-plus catches and three years with 1,000 or more receiving yards. Muhammad, who will turn 32 in May, appeared in 125 games, and started in 113 of them.
Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com.