Panthers release Mike Tolbert, Paul Soliai

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The Carolina Panthers on Tuesday released three-time Pro Bowl fullback Mike Tolbert, clearing $1,725,000 in salary-cap space.

The team also announced it has released 2011 Pro Bowl defensive tackle Paul Soliai, which will save an additional$2,218,750 in salary-cap space.

Tolbert, 31, last offseason signed a two-year, $3.3 million deal with $700,000 guaranteed. Statistically he had one of his worst seasons, rushing 35 times for 114 yards and zero touchdowns and catching 10 passes for 72 yards and one touchdown.

Tolbert came to Carolina from San Diego in 2012. He made the Pro Bowl in 2013, 2015 and 2016.

"I feel very fortunate to have coached Mike for nearly his entire career," said coach Ron Rivera, who also was with Tolbert in San Diego from 2008 to 2010. "He was someone we targeted in 2012 because we felt he would be a good addition to our offense, and he was very productive for us. He brought great energy and leadership to our locker room, and I wish him the best."

Tolbert told The Charlotte Observer that he appreciated that Rivera reached out personally to inform him of the release.

"Normally it's one of the guys lower on the pole that come get the guys that get cut. But this time it was Coach Rivera who brought me upstairs, which I really appreciated," Tolbert told the newspaper. "Because that showed the type of respect that he has for me, the type of respect that Mr. Gettleman [Dave Gettleman is the Panthers' GM] has for me. They didn't send an intern to come get me. They sent the head guy in charge to come talk to me."

Tolbert said he is ready to move on to his next opportunity.

"If a team wants me, come get me because I'm ready to play ball," Tolbert told the Observer.

Soliai, 33, signed a two-year, $7 million deal last offseason. He played in 10 games and started one this past season. He had eight tackles and no sacks.

He was added last year for depth behind 2015 Pro Bowl selection Kawann Short and Star Lotulelei. The Panthers are trying to sign both to long-term deals but have indicated they will use the franchise tag on Short if no agreement is reached before March 1.

The release of Tolbert and Soliai gives Carolina more than $50 million in salary-cap space heading into free agency, which begins March 9.
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