Gross agrees to pay cut, will stay with Panthers
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP)
Gross told The Associated Press Wednesday that his restructured deal is worth $5.5 million in 2013 and will void out after the season, making him a free agent.
That's significantly less than the 10-year veteran was scheduled to make over the final two seasons of his previous contract. The two-time Pro Bowl selection was scheduled to earn $8.7 million this year and $6.7 million in 2014.
Regardless, Gross is thrilled he's playing another season with the Panthers, the team that selected him in the first round of the 2003 NFL draft.
''The Panthers and I came to an agreement that everyone was happy with and allowed me to continue my career in Carolina,'' Gross said. ''... I wanted to be a Panther and this contract echoes that sentiment.''
The move frees up $3.2 million for the Panthers under this year's salary cap.
The Panthers will still take a $3 million salary cap hit next season when Gross is released. He was due a $2 million roster bonus before the 2014 season.
Because of his outgoing personality and his leadership in the locker room, the 32-year-old co-captain has been a popular figure in Carolina despite playing a position that doesn't garner much attention.
He's been in charge of protecting Cam Newton's blindside at left tackle the last two seasons and the young quarterback hasn't missed snap because of injury.
Behind Newton, the Panthers have improved dramatically on offense since 2011 when they finished last in the league in total offense and points scored with Jimmy Clausen at the helm.
By keeping Gross, the Panthers have a year to groom a potential replacement at left tackle.
Gross went to Pro Bowls in 2008 and 2010 but realizes his time in Carolina is coming to an end.
''Even if you are under contract every year you a being reevaluated and auditioning for a job the next year, that's the bottom line,'' Gross said. ''I'm glad that I have a deal and that I'm still held in high regard by the organization. Now I know what the next nine months are going to be like. It's been great playing in Carolina. I wanted to stay here because I have a close bond with this team and with this city.''
Gross started all 16 games last season for the Panthers at left tackle.
He's started 151 games during his NFL career, which is more than any offensive lineman in franchise history.
The Panthers finished 7-9 in 2012 under second-year coach Ron Rivera, but have plenty of optimism moving forward after winning their final four games to close the season.
''I'm excited about this season,'' Gross said.