CHARLOTTE, N.C. (Feb. 23, 2006) -- The Carolina Panthers protected running back DeShaun Foster from free agency by naming him their transition player.
Foster is now guaranteed $5.13 million next season if he doesn't sign a long-term contract. Foster can still talk to other teams when the NFL's free agent period starts, but the transition tag gives Carolina the right to match any offer.
If the Panthers choose not to match any offer Foster might receive, they would not receive any compensation if Foster signed elsewhere.
Carolina has until March 17 to reach a long-term deal with Foster. If no deal is reached at that point, they will have to wait until July before beginning negotiations with Foster again.
David Dunn, Foster's agent, was not immediately available for comment.
Foster led the Panthers with 879 yards and two touchdowns on 205 attempts in 2005 and ranked second on the team with 34 catches for 372 yards and one touchdown. He had hit his stride during the playoffs, but broke his leg in the second half of Carolina's win over Chicago and missed the NFC championship.
A second-round draft choice from UCLA in 2002, he has played in 33 games with 10 starts in four NFL seasons and has rushed for 1,563 yards and four touchdowns on 377 carries.
The Panthers will likely release running back Stephen Davis in the coming weeks. Davis had major knee surgery last year and lost his starting job to Foster.