FILE - In this Nov. 8, 2020, file photo, Carolina Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey (22) carries the ball against the Kansas City Chiefs during the first half of an NFL football game in Kansas City, Mo. The Panthers have restructured the contracts of running back Christian McCaffrey and linebacker Shaq Thompson, freeing up more than $11 million in salary-cap space before the start of free agency. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson, File)
FILE - In this Nov. 8, 2020, file photo, Carolina Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey (22) carries the ball against the Kansas City Chiefs during the first half of an NFL football game in Kansas City, Mo. The Panthers have restructured the contracts of running back Christian McCaffrey and linebacker Shaq Thompson, freeing up more than $11 million in salary-cap space before the start of free agency. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson, File)
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — The Panthers have restructured the contracts of running back Christian McCaffrey and linebacker Shaq Thompson, freeing up more than $11 million in salary-cap space before the start of free agency.

The moves leave the Panthers about $30 million under the salary cap, but the team has roughly $17 million of that pegged to sign draft picks and to have on hand for the start of the season for additional moves. That leaves Carolina with $13 million to spend in free agency.

Panthers coach Matt Rhule does not expect the Panthers to be big spenders in free agency after using the franchise tag on offensive tackle Taylor Moton on Tuesday. Moton will cost the Panthers between $13 and $14 million under the salary cap if he doesn't sign a long-term contract before July 16.

Carolina's key unrestricted free agent is versatile wide receiver Curtis Samuel. While he is a player Rhule would very much like to have back next season, he said he's unsure of that given cap restraints for the 2021 season; the cap has been reduced by about $16 million.

“It’s a reduction from last year but also a reduction on how you were planning,” Rhule said. “That is what is making (teams) make really tough decisions.”

The Panthers were notified by the league they will receive two sixth-round compensatory draft picks this year.

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