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Keeping Johnson the Panthers' free-agent priority

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Dan Parr
Associate editor

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Posted June 29, 2011 @ 3:08 p.m. ET
By Dan Parr

All indications are the Panthers will make re-signing DE Charles Johnson the top priority whenever free agency begins.

We hear the team believes it needs him as much as any of their free agents who will hit the open market, including RB DeAngelo Williams. Reports indicate owners are pushing to have a right of first refusal for three or four unrestricted free agents per team included in the next Collective Bargaining Agreement. Johnson would be one of the players the Panthers would use that mechanism on if given the opportunity, which would make it more difficult for him to leave.

There will be teams willing to pay heavily to land Johnson, who turns 25 on July 10, if he hits the open market, and the Panthers don't have a player on the roster who can provide the pass rush Johnson did last season, when he collected 11½ of the team's 31 sacks. Johnson plays the run well, too, and had a breakout season in 2010, helping to fill the void left by Julius Peppers' departure via free agency.

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