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DeAngelo Williams returning to Panthers

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CHARLOTTE (AP)

The Carolina Panthers promised they'd be aggressive in free agency and they stayed true to their word Wednesday.

In perhaps the wildest day of transactions in franchise history, running back DeAngelo Williams, the team's all-time leading rusher, and linebackers James Anderson and Thomas Davis all agreed to five-year contracts, according to people familiar with the deals.

Also agreeing to terms with seven free agents, including kicker Olindo Mare, defensive tackle Ron Edwards, tight end Ben Hartsock, fullback Rick Brockel, defensive backs Cletis Gordan, Devon Hall and Kevin Payne.

The people spoke to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity because free agents cannot be signed until Friday.

The addition of Mare signals the end of the John Kasay era in Panthers history. Carolina is expected to release the only player remaining from the 1995 expansion team, on Thursday.

Going after Mare over Kasay was due in part to the NFL's new rule that moved kickoffs up 5 yards to the 35-yard line. Mare has more leg strength than Kasay.

The 41-year-old Kasay ranks eighth on the career NFL scoring list with 1,823 points.

Mare, who'll get a four-year, $12 million contract, is only three years younger than Kasay but still has good leg strength and converted 73 of 83 field goal attempts the last three years with the Seattle Seahawks.

Re-signing the 28-year-old Williams was the big news. A Pro Bowl selection in 2009, Williams received offers from Denver and the New York Giants, but decided to stay in Carolina to play alongside best friend and fellow running back Jonathan Stewart. Williams said Monday night during an online chat his goal was to retire as a Panther.

The flurry of moves came a day after defensive end Charles Johnson agreed to a six-year, $72 million contact.

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AP freelance writer Steve Reed in Charlotte contributed to this story.

Tagged: Seahawks, Panthers, Olindo Mare, John Kasay, DeAngelo Williams

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