Young LB Johnson lands big deal with Panthers

The Panthers are heavily committed to retaining their young core, as I’ve been reporting for months, with pass rusher Charles Johnson chief among them. And he opted to stay with the team Tuesday, agreeing to a six-year, $72 million contract, according to NFL.com’s Steve Wyche, with $32 million guaranteed after the NFC South rival Falcons hotly pursued him.

Johnson, 25, has made it clear that he enjoys playing in Carolina, but he’s also a Georgia native who spent time at the University of Georgia, which led to him strongly consider the Falcons.

The Falcons negotiated hard, according to a league source, but the Panthers have made Johnson a priority after he shined in replacing Julius Peppers last season. The Panthers also are trying to sign franchise-tagged center Ryan Kalil to a long-term deal and keep LB Thomas Davis and RB DeAngelo Williams.

The Falcons have spent big in recent years and believe pass rusher is one of the few holes on the roster. However, internally, the expectation is they wouldn’t likely land a top pass rusher in free agency, though they’re taking a shot. They aren’t pursuing Ray Edwards or Justin Babin, considered the other top pass-rushing free agents.

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