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Panthers release longtime defensive end Charles Johnson
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Charles Johnson's nine-year run with the Carolina Panthers is over.

The team released the 29-year-old defensive end on Thursday, a move that will save it $11 million under the 2016 NFL salary cap. The team will carry $4 million of "dead money" on this year's cap leftover from the remainder of Johnson's prorated signing bonus.

Johnson started nine games for Carolina in 2015 but struggled with hamstring injuries and missed seven games while on short-term injured reserve.

He had one sack in the regular season and registered three sacks in three postseason games.

Johnson has a career total of 63.5 sacks, the second most in franchise history behind Julius Peppers' 81. He recorded at least nine sacks in four consecutive years from 2010-13 and had a career-high 12½ sacks in 2012.

"Charles was an impact player for the Carolina Panthers for a long time, both on and off the field," Panthers general manager Dave Gettleman said in a statement. "His statistics speak for themselves, and as a team captain he led the way you want your leaders to lead — by example. I wish him the best moving forward."

Johnson seemed to take the news in stride. He took to Twitter on Thursday after the move was announced, tweeting, "@Panthers Love, Respect, and Hard Work #PantherPride."

Johnson joins another top defensive end, Mario Williams, on the free agent market.

The move means the Panthers must replace both starting defensive ends from last season. Jared Allen retired earlier this offseason.

Kony Ealy, who had three sacks and an interception in the Super Bowl, is expected to take over at one of those spots but the other remains vacant. The Panthers recently visited with former Jets and Dolphins defensive end Quinton Coples, but no agreement has been reached.

The Panthers could address the need in the draft or free agency.

"Charles has had a very good career as a Carolina Panther and I've enjoyed coaching him the past five seasons," coach Ron Rivera said. "Charles fought through adversity with his injury last season and set a great example for our locker room as a captain. I have a great deal of respect for Charles as a player and a person and thank him for all the contributions he has made to this team."

He is one of three players in franchise history to have 10 or more sacks in at least three seasons.

Johnson, a third-round draft pick out of Georgia in 2007, forced 17 forced fumbles during his career, which also ranks second in team history. He played in 118 regular season games for the Panthers, the third most among a defensive lineman in team history behind Mike Rucker's 139 games and Peppers' 122.