The Carolina Panthers today released cornerback Ken Lucas, a move that will clear the team about $2.3 million in salary-cap space, according to Associated Press estimates.

Lucas played four years with the Panthers, starting 49 of 50 games and recording 13 interceptions.

“Ken Lucas has been a very valuable player for us over the last four years and played an important role on two playoff teams during that span,” said Panthers general manager Marty Hurney. “Ken is a true pro and we wish him the very best.”

Hurney said the move means younger players will have an opportunity to step up.

Before signing with the Panthers, Lucas played four seasons with Seattle after the Seahawks selected him in the second round of the 2001 NFL draft. He played college ball at the University of Mississippi.

The Panthers signed Lucas to a six-year, $36 million free-agent deal in 2005. The team had been trying to work out a trade for the veteran, but Lucas vetoed a deal to the Detroit Lions last month, the AP reported.

Lucas made headlines last preseason when he was sucker-punched by star receiver Steve Smith during a team practice. Lucas suffered a broken nose and Smith was suspended for the first two games of the ’09 season.

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