The Panthers secondary these past few seasons have begun to take shape and looks to be one of our strengths heading into the 2011 season. We have capable starters at Corner Back and we have a fairly talented group of young guys at Safety. Charles Godfrey has grown in every season that he's been here, and Sherrod Martin has the makings of an excellent ball hawking Safety with Jordan Pugh and Marcus Hudson providing adequate enough starters in emergencies and much needed depth. But what if we could snag one of the many incredible options at safety in free agency? It would not only help our Corner Backs out by taking some pressure off in zone coverages and help even more when going man-to-man. Safety is far from a need for the Carolina Panthers, but it's nice to survey all options at every position and if our coaching staff believes that the safety position could use an upgrade, so be it. There is a rich supply of talented Safeties in this free agency pool and we'll take a look at the best options at the position after the jump.
Weddle is considered by many to be one of the best safeties in the NFL right now. He's a very athletic, versatile, and instinctive player that has a very good nose for the ball. He's a good size Safety at 5'11'' and weighing in at 200 lbs. and is an excellent player in both pass coverage and run support. In his four year career with the Chargers he's had 358 combined tackles(295 solo), 4 sacks, 28 passes defended, and 6 interceptions(two of them pick-6's) returned for 111 yds which is quite impressive. Many analysts are saying that he's just begun to scratch the surface of his potential which makes him a very intriguing free agent to potentially sign. Though he's expected to get a huge contract this offseason, Weddle is a very humble, team-first kind of player and could instantly come in and upgrade the safety position and also a player willing to play any position of need to help the team. It's very unlikely that we snag Weddle from the Chargers in free agency, but this would be a mammoth sign for the Panthers if we could pull it off.
Landry is a very athletic Strong Safety that excels at providing run support. He's been criticized for his lack of pass coverage skills, but vastly improving them in the 2010 season with the Baltimore Ravens. He is also a good sized safety standing a 6'0'' and weighing in at 210 lbs. His stats during his five year career with the Ravens have been impressive as well, having a combined 362 tackles(279 solo), 5 sacks, 24 passes defended, 9 interceptions(3 of them pick-6's) returned for 213 yds, and 2 forced fumbles. He is by no means a ball hawking safety, but more of an opportunistic one which is good in it's own right. Landry is one of the many free agents that the Ravens need to give new contracts this offseason, making a more realistic possibility of stealing him away from the Ravens and providing us with a relatively young, talented safety that could bolster our run support and offer adequate pass coverage to improve our entire defense.
Quintin Mikell offers a very versatile, athletic Strong Safety that excels in both pass coverage and run support. Mikell is good sized safety standing at 5'10'' and weighing in at 203 lbs. He was used very creatively by then Eagles Defensive Coordinator Sean McDermott in various packages either dropping him into coverage to help the Corner Backs or bringing him in to add more pressure to the pocket on a surprise safety blitz and has played admirably in his 8 year career with the Eagles. And with his connections with McDermott it may be enough to entice him to come and play for the Panthers. Not likely that the Eagles let Mikell go in free agency, but still an impressive and reliable Safety that could come in and play very well for the team.
Danieal Manning is not as highly touted as the other two Safeties I've mentioned, but is a solid Safety recognized for his punt and kick return ability. He offers above average pass coverage and run support and standing at 5'11'' and weighing 202 lbs., is a good sized Safety as well. Though he excels when returning the ball against special teams. Mid-way through the 2008 season he took over return duties for Devin Hester and in his first game taking over he took the kick return 83 yards on the opening kickoff for a Touch Down making it the first opening kickoff for a touch down return for the Bears since 1972. Not a sexy pick for the Panthers, but nonetheless, a solid one if they were to pursue a Safety in free agency.
Other Notable Free Agent Safeties:
Gerald Sensabaugh- Dallas had horrible secondary play in the 2010 season. Sensabaugh came in and became Dallas' best Defensive back but considering how bad their secondary was that's not really saying much. Still a solid option at Safety.
Donte Whitner- A young impressive Safety when it comes to run support, though his pass coverage leaves much to be desired.
Dashon Goldson- Goldson is a very good Safety but may be an injury concern. If healthy, he would be a very good addition to any secondary.
George Wilson- Wilson is also a very good cover corner with adequate run support, but suffers from circumstance as he plays behind Jairus Bryd. A change of scenery is needed for him to flourish.
And there you have my Panther Brethren, the free agent pool for Safeties is actually quite deep this season. And even though Safety is not really a need for the Panthers right now, like I've said before, it's never a bad thing to survey every possible option at every position.