CHARLOTTE, N.C. – The Carolina Panthers entered training camp with the NFL's third-youngest roster. Then in final cuts they kept most of the youngsters.
The Panthers trimmed 22 players to get to the 53-man limit on Saturday, but found room to keep nine of 10 draft picks. They waived veteran defensive tackle Tank Tyler in favor of undrafted rookie Andre Neblett, and sent Kenny Moore packing in favor of three rookie receivers, including David Gettis.
Even second-year quarterback Hunter Cantwell was waived, giving the third-string job to rookie Tony Pike.
"The players we kept didn't have anything to do with money," Panthers general manager Marty Hurney said. "They had to do with who we felt was going to help our football team the most."
Whether it's strictly an extreme youth movement or partly to trim payroll in anticipation of labor unrest next year, they'll be depending on young players everywhere to contribute immediately.
Tyler was perhaps the biggest surprise in Saturday's moves. Acquired last year from Kansas City for a fifth-round pick, Tyler came into training camp expected to be a starter after Carolina's offseason overhaul of the defensive line. But he was outplayed in the preseason.
Carolina kept just five defensive tackles. Corvey Irvin, a third-round pick in 2009 who spent his rookie season on injured reserve, was also waived.
"I think the guy that really surprised us was Andre Neblett," Hurney said. "We got him as a rookie free agent out of Temple and every time he was in games he made plays. Every time he was in there he made something happen. We decided to keep him along with Nick (Hayden), Louis (Leonard), Ed (Johnson) and Derek Landri."
At QB, the Panthers felt the sixth-round pick Pike had more potential than Cantwell, who spent most of last season on the practice squad. Pike will be behind starter Matt Moore and rookie Jimmy Clausen.
"Tony showed the other night a lot of the things we saw in college," Hurney said. "He's got excellent feet, great feel for pressure, great ability to escape things from the pocket. He has the ability to make things happen."
The Panthers are lightest on the offensive line and at cornerback.
Guards Duke Robinson (torn knee ligament) and C.J. Davis (concussion) were placed on season-ending injured reserve and tackle Rob Petitti was cut, leaving Carolina with just eight linemen. That includes Tim Duckworth, who was signed on Monday.
The only draft pick waived was seventh-round choice R.J. Stanford. C.J. Wilson and Brian Witherspoon were also cut, leaving the Panthers with just four cornerbacks, including rookie Robert McClain.
"It's probably not as many as you'd like to keep," Hurney said.
But the Panthers needed room to keep six receivers, including special-teamer Charly Martin, rookies Brandon LaFell, Armanti Edwards and Gettis. The Panthers also kept a spot for kickoff specialist Todd Carter.
The Panthers' special teams took a hit when they placed veteran Aaron Francisco on injured reserve after he missed most of the preseason with a torn hamstring.
Also let go were receiver Trent Guy, defensive end Eric Moore, guards Andrew Crummey and Ray Hisatake, linebackers Quinton Culberson, Mortty Ivy and Sean Ware, fullback Rashawn Jackson, running backs Josh Vaughan and Dantrell Savage and tight end Jamie Petrowski.
When asked about keeping all but one draft pick, Hurney quickly replied that if they had "kept two of 10 we would've been criticized for not drafting well. I guess it's hard to win sometimes."
Hurney shrugged off questions they could sign a veteran receiver, insisting the Panthers can be successful with one of the NFL's youngest rosters.
"We feel good about our team in general and the young players we have and their skill level and what they can bring to us," Hurney said. "We'll see. It begins next week."