CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) - The Panthers released starting cornerback Chris Gamble on Friday in a move that will get them under this year's NFL salary cap.
By releasing Gamble the Panthers will save $7.9 million under this year's salary cap.
The former first-round pick who has played his entire career with the Panthers immediately becomes a free agent.
The Panthers selected Gamble with the 28th overall pick in the 2004 draft out of Ohio State.
He played in 123 career regular season games with 117 starts and is the franchise's leader with 27 career interceptions, including two returned for touchdowns. He has started more games for the Panthers than any cornerback in franchise history.
Gamble missed most of last season with a torn labrum in his shoulder.
``I appreciate the contributions of Chris during my first two years as head coach and to the organization for many years,'' said Panthers coach Ron Rivera. ``He always handled things the right way and we wish him the best.''
The move did not come as a surprise.
Gamble's salary and recent injury history combined with the Panthers needing to trim $16 million from this year's salary cap made him an obvious target for release.
Still, it leaves the Panthers with some question marks at cornerback heading into this season.
Captain Munnerlyn, who has started 34 games in four seasons with the Panthers, is an unrestricted free agent and it's uncertain on whether or not he'll return. Munnerlyn has said he wants to return to Carolina, but could wind up exploring the free agent market.
The only cornerbacks under contract who saw significant action last year were rookies Josh Thomas and rookie Josh Norman.
Norman started 12 games and had 73 tackles and one interception. Thomas, a second-year player, started four games and has played in 25 over the past two seasons for Carolina.