Johnson spent his entire career with the Panthers and holds the franchise record in games played with 143. He also ranks second behind Julius Peppers on the franchise’s all-time sack and forced fumbles lists.
The 32-year-old Johnson said that his body was giving him pronounced clues to retire after he underwent back surgery last year.
“Once you have back surgery, I don’t care who you are, it’s a beast to get back,” Johnson said. “My body was just … I haven’t worked out since this winter. I tried to get motivated to work out, and my body said, ‘We’re not working out right now.’ It was about that time.”
Johnson battled back problems and a four-game suspension for performance-enhancing drugs last season after signing a two-year $9.5 million extension in March 2017. He also did not play in the playoff loss to New Orleans and was released in February.
Johnson was the first member of the Panthers to record at least nine sacks in four consecutive seasons (2010-13), including a career-high 12 in 2012.
“My mindset was just to work,” Johnson said. “I knew the work would get me where I wanted to be.”
He collected 352 tackles, 67.5 sacks and 20 forced fumbles in 143 career games since being selected by the Panthers in the third round of the 2007 NFL Draft.