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He also wants to stay with Carolina.
Asked if he was optimistic both could happen, the fifth-year player out of South Carolina said, “Kind of, sorta.”
“It’s home for me,” Munnerlyn said Monday, the day after Carolina’s season ended with a 23-10 loss to the San Francisco 49ers in an NFC divisional playoff game. “It’s the team that drafted me. It’s kind of tough to leave this place, man.
“We’ve got something special going. I know the guys in the secondary, there’s a lot of us up. People call us the ‘Legion of Whom,’ but man, I wouldn’t trade those guys for anybody in the world, for anybody.”
Most of Carolina’s free agents are like Munnerlyn, players who won’t demand top dollar in the open market. Munnerlyn, who signed a one-year deal to return this season, just wants to be treated fairly, which is why he said “kind of, sorta.”
“I feel this year was a good year for me,” he said. “I started every single game. I proved I can play an every-down corner. I proved I can slide inside. I proved I can be physical. I proved I can do everything they ask me to do.
“I just want to be compensated for it.”
Munnerlyn also left open the option of another one-year deal with Carolina if the money is right.
He wants to remain with the Panthers so badly he didn’t take his uniform off Sunday until most of his teammates had showered and left.
I feel this year was a good year for me. I started every single game. I proved I can play an every-down corner. I proved I can slide inside. I proved I can be physical. I proved I can do everything they ask me to do. I just want to be compensated for it.
— Panthers CB Captain Munnerlyn
“I really [didn’t] know if that was my last time wearing that black jersey or not,” Munnerlyn said. “I just had to take some time and get my mind together and try to move on.”
Mitchell also said he wants to return to finish what Carolina (12-5) began this season.
But Carolina’s priority among free-agent defensive starters is defensive end Greg Hardy, who finished second in the league with 15 sacks.
Hardy recently said he wouldn’t object to Carolina using the franchise tag, which would guarantee him around $12 million next season, then negotiate a long-term deal for beyond 2014. He too has said he would like to return and would give the Panthers a hometown discount if it’s within reason.
“I’m real enthusiastic about getting something done and being back here,” said Hardy, who was held without a sack Sunday.
Many of Hardy’s teammates agree that re-signing him will be key to continuing the momentum built by the league’s second-ranked defense this season. Hardy said if he comes back, it will be with a “vengeance.”
“And the same chip, not bigger or smaller than I’ve had my whole life,” he said. “I’m going to come regardless, off the edge, and destroy anybody in my way.”
The Panthers have 20 players overall scheduled to become unrestricted free agents. Quarterback Jimmy Clausen, who was cut during training camp and reverted back to injured reserve, would bring the count to 21.
Three of those pending free agents — left tackle Jordan Gross, guard Travelle Wharton and wide receiver Brandon LaFell — are starters on offense. Defensive tackle Colin Cole is the fifth starter on defense.
The decision on Gross is twofold. The Panthers haven’t told him they want him back and Gross isn’t sure he wants to return for a 12th season. But the veteran tackle made one thing clear.
“If I’m playing, I’ll play here,” said Gross, selected in the first round of the 2003 draft. “So, I don’t know yet.”
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