CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The NFC champion Panthers kept only three of their five draft picks this year, waiving cornerback Zack Sanchez and tight end Beau Sandland to trim their roster to 53 players on Saturday.
Sanchez was a fifth-round selection and Sandland a seventh-rounder.
Backup guard Chris Scott was placed on the reserve/suspended list after being suspended by the NFL for four games for violating the policy on performance enhancing substances.
Also cut were running backs Brandon Wegher and Jalen Simmons, wide receiver Keyarris Garrett, tight ends Eric Wallace and Marcus Lucas, guard David Yankey, defensive ends Larry Webster and Arthur Miley, defensive tackles Kyle Love, Eric Crume and Robert Thomas, linebacker Brian Blechen, cornerback Lou Young and safeties Stevie Brown, Marcus Ball and Travell Dixon.
Wide receiver Kevin Norwood, linebacker Ben Jacobs and offensive tackle Jordan Rigsbee were placed on injured reserve.
Sanchez becomes the highest-drafted player by fourth-year general manager Dave Gettleman to not make the team’s opening-day roster.
Sanchez was one of three cornerbacks the Panthers drafted to help fill the void from the departure of All-Pro Josh Norman. But while second-round pick James Bradberry and third-round pick Daryl Worley quickly secured starting roles, Sanchez was relegated to nickel back duty and struggled during the preseason. Bene Benwikere, Robert McClain and Teddy Williams are the other cornerbacks who made the roster ahead of Sanchez, a candidate for the practice squad.
The Panthers kept Scott Simonson as their third tight over Sandland, who didn’t make many plays in the preseason, and Lucas, who caught two touchdown passes from Joe Webb in the team’s third preseason game against the New England Patriots.
The Panthers decided to keep six wide receivers at their most talented position, with Brenton Bersin and Damiere Byrd both making the list of 53. Norwood, acquired in a trade last year with Seattle, had been in the running to make the roster but injured his hip in the team’s final preseason game.
Wegher was a fan favorite at running back, but the Panthers went with Fozzy Whittaker and Cameron Artis-Payne as the backups to Jonathan Stewart.
Scott’s suspension opened a roster spot for guard Tyler Larsen, who had stints with Miami and Washington last year but has never played in a regular season game.
In cutting Love, the Panthers decided to keep five defensive ends and four defensive tackles as ends Ryan Delaire and Wes Horton claimed the last of the defensive line spots.
Love played in 15 games last season for the Panthers with two starts and had 19 tackles and three sacks in helping the Panthers to a third-straight NFC South championship. However, the Panthers drafted Vernon Butler in the first round and signed free agent Paul Soliai, making Love expendable.
Two undrafted rookie linebackers made the roster: Jeremy Cash from Duke and Jared Norris from Utah. Jacobs had been regular backup and special teams player for the Panthers, but injured his ankle in the preseason.
Carolina had signed safety Stevie Smith just last week, but then cut him when it deemed backup Dean Marlowe was healthy enough to play. Marlowe has been plagued by a hamstring injury for much of the preseason.
The Panthers open the season Thursday night at Denver in a rematch of last season’s Super Bowl.