Three days shy of turning 30 years old, Carolina Panthers cornerback Chris Gamble received some career-changing news.
The Panthers announced Friday they have released the ninth-year defensive back — the franchise's all-time leader in interceptions (27) and passes defended (94).
"I appreciate the contributions of Chris during my first two years as head coach and to the organization for many years," said Panthers coach Ron Rivera in a statement on the team's website. "He always handled things the right way, and we wish him the best."
The move saves the Panthers approximately $7.9 million in salary cap space, putting Carolina about $4 million below the NFL's cap number of $123.9 million.
Gamble, who was drafted by the Panthers out of Ohio State with the 24th pick in the 2004 NFL Draft, was extremely productive in his first five years in the NFL. He recorded 20 interceptions and 355 tackles during that span, including a career-high 93 tackles in 2008.
Gamble's solid play earned him a six-year, $53 million contract with the Panthers on Nov. 28, 2008.
At the time, Gamble's new deal — $23 million of which was guaranteed — made him one of the highest paid defensive backs in the NFL.
After playing in at least 15 games in seven of his first eight seasons, Gamble was limited to just four games this past season after suffering a season-ending torn labrum in his right shoulder in Week 4 against the Atlanta Falcons.
Gamble, who was placed on injured reserve for the first time in his career, recorded eight tackles (seven assisted) and defended two passes in those four contests in 2012.
He had been with the Panthers the third longest of any current player behind only 12-year wideout Steve Smith and 10-year offensive tackle Jordan Gross.
The move to release Gamble leaves the Panthers with six returning cornerbacks, including Josh Norman, Josh Thomas, James Dockery and Nick Hixson.
Captain Munnerlyn, who played in place of an injured Gamble last season, is an unrestricted free agent, while the Panthers sixth corner, Nate Ness, is a restricted free agent.
Fourteen members of the Panthers are set to test the free agent market when the NFL's signing period starts on Tuesday.
Among those Carolina players who are unrestricted free agents include quarterback Derek Anderson, defensive tackle Dwan Edwards, defensive end Antwan Applewhite, safety Sherrod Martin, wide receiver Louis Murphy, tight ends Gary Barnidge and Ben Hartsock, linebackers Jason Phillips and Jordan Senn and guard Mike Pollak.
Defensive tackle Andre Neblett is a restricted free agent, while tight end/fullback Richie Brockel is under exclusive rights.
Senn, a special teams captain for the Panthers last season, announced on his official Twitter page this past week that he has signed a one-year contract with Carolina, but the team has yet to announce the deal.
A back-up quarterback for Carolina the past two seasons, Anderson has been rumored to be heading to Cleveland to join former Carolina offensive coordinator and current Browns head coach Rob Chudzinski.