Damione Lewis may have to eat some salary, or else. In an offseason where Ken Lucas and others are the high profile wishlist cuts, Lewis seems the quiet but most likely choice.
With a $2.5 million roster bonus, a $6.8 million cap hit overall, and a shoulder injury, his three year deal may be reduced to just his 2008 performance. Being setup as a potential parachute, the team had apparently worked in enough language to get themselves out of the contract if necessary. His three year deal signed in 2008 was $14 million - which included the roster bonus and a big raise to $3 million in salary. Cutting him would cost a $1.14 million prorated bonus acceleration, and save the salary and roster bonus (a total savings of $4.36 million).
Lewis may be able to stay, of course. A median resolution would be to apply the $2.5 million as a signing bonus, which would put half of it on next year's cap. That'd save the team $1.25 million. Or he could be offered to stay at his salary, without the roster bonus and a cut in pay, in a move that would tell him that they don't require his services - if he wanted to walk, he could. Which, with a bum shoulder, may mean difficulty finding work.
The Panthers need better answers at defensive tackle, where Lewis and Ma'ake Kemoeatu got mauled in the second half of the year after a solid first half (things got worse, of course, when Kemoeatu got hurt).
Kemoeatu seems to be a keeper, having not come up in cap-cutting discussions so far this year, and there being no June 1 exemption this year means he'll probably be restructured. Lewis, the pass-rushing side of the equation, is probably a player the team would like to keep - in that role, coming off the bench as a rusher, and in a supporting role fiscally as well. Finding a starting player won't be easy, but will probably happen - if just a run-supporting starter.