CHARLOTTE -- The Carolina Panthers have to take their roster from 75 to 54 today, and the math may never have been tougher.
The Panthers have to cut 21 players by this afternoon's 6 p.m. deadline, gaining an extra roster spot for two weeks as a result of the team-imposed suspension of offensive lineman Jeremy Bridges. He'll be placed on the reserve/suspended by team list, eligible to return for their Week 3 game at Atlanta.
That buys them an extra spot for an offensive lineman in the short term, easing a bit one of their more difficult decisions, but they've still got plenty to make.
"It's always tough," general manager Marty Hurney said Friday. "You always want to keep more than you're allowed to, and every year it seems like it gets harder, because it's the one facing you."
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Part of the reason their work today's more difficult has been the recent upturn in their draft fortunes.
One of today's highlights is expected to be the release of 2005 second-rounder Eric Shelton, and the possibility that third-round classmate Evan Mathis could be in trouble. If cut, they'd fall into that year's dustbin with previously busts Atiyyah Ellison, and Stefan LeFors.
But of the 16 players chose in the last two drafts, most are expected to survive today's transactions.
From the 2006 class, only third-rounder Rashad Butler and seventh-rounder Will Montgomery even seem to be on the bubble, and one should make the roster. Of the rookies, fifth-rounder Tim Shaw's spot is tenuous, and seventh-rounder C.J. Wilson's the only one who appears to be automatically out.
Several positions provide tougher calls than others, with quality players expected to be released at cornerback, wide receiver and on the offensive line.
Keeping two quarterbacks, as they did last year, seems inevitable. At least they're deeper at the position, as David Carr seems a considerable upgrade over Chris Weinke.
They'll also use the next few days to scan the waiver wire, particularly for help at safety and possibly tight end.