Witherspoon was a restricted free agent this offseason and would play the season for $1.43 million if a new deal isn't reached. However, the Panthers want to wrap up Witherspoon, a key cog in their defense, for the long term before he becomes an unrestricted free agent next February.
The Panthers hope to address that extension sooner rather than later, according to team sources.
PERSONNEL UPDATEUNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS
--LB Jessie Armstead is not a high priority for the Panthers, but there's a chance he could come back given his relationship with John Fox. Armstead missed all of 2004 on IR.
--RB Brandon Bennett was basically a fill-in back for the Panthers, who were decimated at that position in '04. Don't expect him to return.
--S Curtis Fuller was a fill-in player for the Panthers and there will be cheaper and better alternatives available.
--DE Kavika Pittman has missed the last two seasons with torn ACLs in his knee and you have to wonder if he has anything left.
--S Damien Richardson has missed the last two seasons with injuries and will probably not return.
--OG Rich Tylski was an adequate backup but couldn't handle the starting job. Look for the team to seek a younger alternative and for Tylski to end up back in retirement.
--OT Matt Willig cost the Panthers a few games last season at right tackle and there's very little chance he'll be back in '05. In fact, he could call it quits after 13 years in the NFL.
RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: None.
EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS FREE AGENTS
--LB Vinny Ciurciu (tendered at $380,000).
--FB Casey Cramer (tendered at $305,000).
--DT Jordan Carstens: ERFA; $305,000/1 yr.
--CB William Hampton: Potential RFA; 2 yrs, terms unknown.
--WR Karl Hankton: UFA; $3M/4 yrs, $300,000 SB.
--RB Joey Harris: ERFA; $305,000/1 yr.
--CB Eddie Jackson: ERFA; $305,000/1 yr.
--DT Omari Jordan: ERFA; $305,000/1 yr.
--OT Dave Kadela: Potential ERFA; terms unknown.
--DT Cleveland Pinkney: ERFA; $380,000/1 yr.
--DE Kemp Rasmussen: RFA; $656,000/1 yr.
--RB Jamal Robertson: RFA; $656,000/1 yr.
--WR Micah Ross: Potential RFA; 2 yrs, terms unknown.
--RB Rod Smart: Potential UFA; 4 yrs, terms unknown).
--LB Sean Tufts: ERFA; $305,000/1 yr.
--CB Dante Wesley: RFA; $656,000/1 yr.
--LB Will Witherspoon: RFA; $1.43M/1 yr.
--P Jason Baker (trade Broncos).
--S Idrees Bashir: UFA Colts; 1 yr, terms unknown.
--LB Chris Draft: FA Falcons; terms unknown.
--TE Freddie Jones: UFA Cardinals; terms unknown.
--CB Ken Lucas: UFA Seahawks; $36M/6 yrs, $13M bonuses.
--S Marlon McCree: UFA Texans; $640,000/1 yr, $100,000 SB.
--OG Tupe Peko: Waivers Colts.
--P Tom Rouen: UFA Seahawks; terms unknown.
--OG Mike Wahle: FA Packers; $27M/5 yrs, $8M SB/$350,000 RB '06/$1M RB '07-'08/$2M RB '09/$1M base guarantee '05; 2005 cap: $2.6M.
--LB Brian Allen: UFA Redskins; terms unknown.
--OG Doug Brzezinski (released).
--LB Mark Fields: UFA; will miss 2004 season because of recurrence of Hodgkin's disease.
--CB Artrell Hawkins (released).
--WR Muhsin Muhammad (released).
--QB Rodney Peete (released).
--P Todd Sauerbrun (traded Broncos).
--S Travares Tillman: UFA Dolphins; $1.7M/2 yrs, $600,000 SB.