Free safety Haruki Nakamura had a forgettable first season with the Carolina Panthers, surrendering a pair of big plays, including a 49-yard touchdown, during a 30-28 loss to the Atlanta Falcons on Sept. 30. By the end of the 2012 season, Nakamura was used primarily on running downs before he was placed on injured reserve after aggravating a groin injury in December.
Entering this offeason, Nakamura faced an uncertain future with the Panthers. The team hired general manager David Gettleman in January to be the full-time replacement for GM Marty Hurney - who had signed Nakamura to a three-year, $4.8 million contract last offseason - was fired by owner Jerry Richardson after the Panthers had a 1-5 start to a season many predicted would result in an appearance in the playoffs.
However, according to a source with knowledge of the situation, Nakamura has agreed to restructured contract that lowers his 2013 salary by nearly $500,000 and likely reflects a role moving forward as a core special teams player who will compete for a starting job.
Originally scheduled to earn $1.3 million in non-guaranteed base salary this season, Nakamura will now earn $815,000 in total cash compensation if he makes the Panthers' 53-man roster. As part of the restructured contract, Nakamura received a $65,000 signing bonus, which is the only portion of the new deal that is guaranteed, and could earn a $35,000 workout bonus this offseason. Nakamura is scheduled to earn $715,000 in base salary with an additional $300,000 in available playing-time incentives.
The new contract lowers Nakamura's cap hit by $517,500 with the trade-off being that the 2014 year in his contract, which saw his $1.8 million base salary reduced to $730,000, will void if Nakamura is on the roster five days after Super Bowl XLVIII, making him eligible for free agency next offseason.
Nakamura posted 54 tackles, including 45 on defense, and tied for the team lead with two interceptions last season. Due to his lesser role on defense later in the season, Nakamura had a playing-time percentage of 56.23 percent on defensive plays, a fairly low number for a player who started 13 games. Nakamura did participate in 40.54 percent of the Panthers' special teams snaps and ranked third on the team with nine tackles on special teams.
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