The NFL free agency period will begin in a little over two weeks, but the Carolina Panthers have gotten a head start by letting a couple of veteran players go before March 9. Carolina released fullback Mike Tolbert on Tuesday and reportedly will release defensive tackle Paul Soliai.
Tolbert spent five seasons with the Panthers as he mostly used as a short-yardage running back and a receiver out of the backfield. Before playing with the Panthers, Tolbert played four seasons with the San Diego Chargers. During his five seasons in Carolina, Tolbert was named to the Pro Bowl three times.
““I feel very fortunate to have coached Mike for nearly his entire career,” Panthers coach Ron Rivera said in a team statement. “He was someone we targeted in 2012 because we felt he would be a good addition to our offense and he was very productive for us. He brought great energy and leadership to our locker room and I wish him the best.”
Last season for the Panthers, Tolbert rushed for 114 yards on 35 carries. Tolbert’s role in the Panthers offense has shriveled in recent years as he only recorded one touchdown (receiving) in 2016.
While not official, the Panthers appear to be ready to release Soliai. His agent David Canter announced the move on Tuesday via Twitter.
Soliai only played one season for the Panthers as he recorded eight tackles and a fumble recovery in 10 games last season as he was inactive in a number of games. Last offseason, Soliai signed a two-year, $7 million contract after playing two years with the Atlanta Falcons.
It is projected that the Panthers will save $2.2 million with the release of Soliai. Carolina will save over $1.7 million by releasing Tolbert.
Carolina has depth at defensive tackle with Kawann Short, Star Lotulelei and Vernon Butler on their roster, so they could afford to move on from Soliai. The Panthers now have two fullbacks (Darrel Young and Devon Johnson) on the roster with the release of Tolbert.
Follow Antwan Staley on Twitter @antwanstaley
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