Travelle Wharton’s cap charge goes from $7,562,882 to $1,862,882, with $1,862,882 in dead money left in 2013. Wharton is replaced in Carolina’s Top 51 by a player whose base salary is $540,000, so the Panthers have a net gain of $5.16 million in cap room and are now $8,383,625 under the cap.
Okay, that's good. The Panthers have signed some FAs and all their draft picks, and we've still got a good chunk of change in the coffer. Keep in mind, though, that the Panthers got a salary cap "bump" for 2012, so instead of trying to work against the $120.6m cap, ours is actually $125.6; so, we're sitting on around a $117.3 cap number right now. There's no real significance to that (as far as I know); just putting it out there for edumacational value.
The new CBA does not impose a hard "floor" per team until 2013, so the Panthers aren't required to spend anything. There is the stipulation, however, that league-wide, teams must pay 99% of the cap, an average of $119.2m. In 2013, a hard floor of 89% of the cap will be imposed for each team.
If you want to see what each player counts against this year's cap, here's a good site (link here). A word of advice... don't look at the line for O. Mare. It will make you need to find a "happy place."
Also of note, when considering D-Will's contract/cap hit, you have to pro-rate his $16m signing bonus which adds $3.2m to the cap for 5 years. But, it also means he's got $21m (less taxes) already in his wallet, so I would hope D-Will would be pretty easily convinced to restructure. He's a good little Panther, after all.
Let's say the Panthers aren't able to strike a deal with Stewart this season. Do you really think they would let him walk for nothing? Not bloody likely. Instead, I think he'd be franchised for 2013. The franchise tender for RBs this year is $7.742 million. Depending on what happens with Forte and Rice, this number may change somewhat for 2013, but it will likely still be less than the $8.45m that D-Will's cap hit is for this year. My point is, re-signing Stewy isn't really an urgent priority. He's not going anywhere unless another team offers a serious premium for his services.