Gross agrees to pay cut, will stay with Panthers

The good news for offensive tackle Jordan Gross is he’s staying

with the Carolina Panthers. The downside is that means having to

take a pay cut.

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.