Panthers offer contract to Norwell; re-sign Jones, Bersin
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) Charles Johnson is returning for a 12th season with the Carolina Panthers. He'd like to see his old buddy Julius Peppers back in Carolina, too.
Carolina announced the 33-year-old Johnson signed a two-year extension. The deal is worth $9.5 million, according to a person familiar with the negogiations. The person spoke to The Associated Press Tuesday on condition of anonymity because the team does not announce financial terms.
Johnson becomes the third defensive end to re-sign this offseason with Carolina, joining Mario Addison and Wes Horton.
But Johnson believes there is room for another defensive end in Peppers, an unrestricted free agent who played eight seasons with the Panthers from 2002-2009 before bolting to the Chicago Bears following a bitter contract dispute in Carolina.
''Just keep stacking the D-line,'' Johnson said. ''I will even root for them to bring Pep(pers) back. If they bring Julius back, I'm all aboard.''
Johnson said he plans to call Peppers and try to ''recruit'' him back to Carolina for one more season.
Peppers turned 37 in January. He has played the last three seasons with the Green Bay Packers. He had 25 sacks over the past three seasons with the Packers, including 7 1/2 last season.
Johnson ranks second in franchise history with 67 1/2 sacks, behind only Peppers. He had 25 quarterback hurries and four sacks last season in 13 games.
Along with football, Johnson is a very active businessman in Charlotte area and is the process of opening restaurants and other businesses. Johnson said he received some interest from a couple of other teams - although he wouldn't say which - but decided not to test the free agent waters.
''My decision was always to stick with my team,'' Johnson said. ''I love where I'm at and the coaches always show me love and loyalty.''
Panthers coach Ron Rivera said in a release Tuesday that it was great to have Johnson back.
''He has spent his entire career with the Panthers, has emerged as a leader for us in the last few years, and is a big part of the reason we've had the success we've had,'' Rivera said. ''We look forward to having Charles continue to be part of our team.''
The Panthers also extended a contract offer to restricted free agent guard Andrew Norwell to retain his rights for next season and re-signed safety Colin Jones and wide receiver Brenton Bersin.
Jones received a two-year contract and Bersin a one-year deal Tuesday. Financial terms weren't announced.
Norwell would make $2.7 million in 2017 under the offer. Other teams can make contract offers to Norwell by April 21, but the Panthers have the right to match. If Carolina chooses not to match, it would receive a second-round draft pick as compensation.
Norwell has started 38 games in three seasons.
Carolina also extended contract offers to two exclusive rights free agents - punter Michael Palardy and center Tyler Larsen.
The Panthers have not offered a contract to restricted free agent wide receiver Philly Brown.
For more NFL coverage: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL