CHARLOTTE, NC (Joseph Person/The Charlotte Observer) - The Panthers have set their 53-man roster ... at least for the time being.
Kickers Graham Gano and Harrison Butker both remain on the roster, as interim GM Marty Hurney tries to swing a trade and get something in return for one of them.
It could be a tough sell, unless a team is interested specifically in one of the kickers. Otherwise, teams can simply wait for the Panthers to cut Butker or Gano, who ended his preseason by missing a 51-yarder Thursday against Pittsburgh.
The roster as it stands now also includes only one backup safety -- veteran Colin Jones. So clearly, Hurney is done at that position, either.
Former Broncos safety T.J. Ward, a three-time Pro Bowler, was cut. He could be a possibility, although the Panthers aren't necessarily looking for a starter.
With a new general manager in place and an apparently healthy Cam Newton, the Panthers are releasing No. 3 quarterback Joe Webb, according to Bill Voth of the team's official website.
Webb has served as the third QB/emergency WR/special teams regular for the past three seasons. But interim GM Marty Hurney clearly had a different view than Dave Gettleman on the need for a third QB.
The Panthers also waived No. 4 QB Garrett Gilbert, and will start the season with Newton and longtime backup Derek Anderson as their only quarterbacks.
The Panthers have decided one of their two specialists, electing to keep punter Michael Palardy and cutting veteran Andy Lee, per a league source.
Palardy, 25, actually replaced Lee last season after Lee injured his hamstring in Week 10.
Palardy had a strong preseason, averaging 47.5 yards on 10 punts, with a long of 56.
Lee, 35, had a 45.9-yard average and a long of 58.
The Panthers still have a decision to make at kicker. They've been fielding calls on incumbent Graham Gano, according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport.
Harrison Butker, the seventh-round pick, did not miss a kick in the preseason, while Gano missed two -- both 50 yards or longer. Gano started last season on a bad note by missing a 50-yarder that would have won the Week 1, Super Bowl rematch at Denver.
Former Panthers GM Dave Gettleman acquired Lee last summer in a trade with Cleveland, sending a fourth-round pick in 2018 and punter Kasey Redfern to the Browns in exchange for Lee and a seventh-round pick this year (which the Panthers used on Butker).
The Observer reported this week the Panthers had been gauging trade interest in Lee.
Lee averaged 49.1 yards per punt before getting hurt while warming up before a November game against the Chiefs last season. Lee had not yet returned to that form this preseason, but said after Thursday's exhibition finale vs. Pittsburgh he thought he and Palardy would be kicking in the NFL this year.
Lee took a pay cut during the offseason,but the Panthers will still carry $2.3 million dead money after cutting him. They'll save about $325,000 against the salary cap.
(The running list of cuts is listed below.)
The Panthers' interior offensive line depth likely will consist of younger players this year after veterans Gino Gradkowski and Chris Scott failed to make the 53-man roster.
Gradkowski, who had knee surgery last year, will be placed on injured reserve with a back injury, while Scott was released after being sidelined the past two-plus weeks with a concussion.
Tyler Larsen, who started at center the last six games in 2016, was a lock to make the roster as Ryan Kalil's backup. But Saturday's moves likely mean a relatively unknown player could get the final offensive line spot, unless the Panthers find help outside the organization.
Former Clemson linebacker Ben Boulware slept in his car on one of his first days as a Panther because he arrived so early for OTAs.
But Boulware's hopes to make the Week 1 roster will end Saturday. A league source said the native Carolinian has been told he will be among the team's cuts.
The move is not all that surprising. While Panthers' coaches were impressed with Boulware's attitude and football IQ, he was far down the depth chart at one of the team's deepest positions.
There's no word yet on whether the Panthers might try to keep him on the practice squad.
As Carolina Panthers doctors and trainers evaluated him on the sideline Thursday night, cornerback Zack Sanchez's shoulders slumped and his chin dropped to his chest.
The second-year player knew his groin injury had happened at the worst possible time.
Injuries doomed the hopes of Sanchez and fellow cornerback Teddy Williams, who were among six injury-related moves Friday as the Panthers cut their roster from 90 to 77.
Teams have until 4 p.m. Saturday to get to the 53-player, regular-season limit.
Sanchez, one of three corners drafted by the Panthers in 2016, was waived/injured after aggravating a groin issue that landed him on injured reserve last November.
Williams, a special teams regular during the Super Bowl season of 2015, sustained a shoulder stinger during the 17-14 loss to Pittsburgh in Thursday's exhibition finale.
Williams and four other players were placed on injured reserve – undrafted wideout Fred Ross (ankle), tight end Scott Simonson (back) and offensive linemen David Yankey (back) and Dan France (concussion).
The Panthers released speedy wideout Trevor Graham and waived seven players – former East Carolina TE Bryce Williams, C Brian Folkerts, CB Devonte Johnson, DTs Gabriel Mass and Connor Wujciak and DEs Arthur Miley and Efe Obada.
The Nigerian-born Obada, who grew up in London, was part of a new international development program and did not count against the 90-man roster. He can sign with another team or return to Carolina as an exempt member of the practice squad.
The injuries to Williams and Sanchez would seem to bode well for rookie corner Cole Luke's chances of making the team. The undrafted free agent from Notre Dame has had a strong preseason, although he was beaten badly on a long touchdown pass by the Steelers.
With more than 1,000 players hitting the market by Saturday afternoon, the Panthers will be scanning the waiver wire looking for players who could improve the depth at corner – and also at safety and tight end.
PANTHERS ROSTER MOVES
Carolina Panthers roster moves as they reduce their roster from 90 players to 53, the regular-season limit:
Waived: LB Ben Boulware, OL Blaine Clausell, LB Zeek Bigger, DT Eric Crume, WR Austin Duke, S Dezmen Southward, QB Garrett Gilbert, RB Jalen Simmons, WR Keyarris Garrett, WR Mose Frazier, DE Bryan Cox Jr., DE Zach Moore, DE Larry Webster, DT Toby Johnson, TE Eric Wallace, CB Jeff Richards, S Damian Parms.
Terminated/Vested Veteran: P Andy Lee, FB Darrel Young, QB Joe Webb.
Injured reserve: OL Gino Gradkowski, WR Brenton Bersin, OL Chris Scott, S L.J. McCray.
Waived: TE Bryce Williams; CB Devonte Johnson; DT Gabriel Mass; DE Arthur Miley; C Brian Folkerts; DT Connor Wujciak; DE Efe Obada.
Terminated/Vested Veteran: WR Trevor Graham.
Waived/Injured: CB Zack Sanchez.