Charles Woodson is looking for a team in order to compete for a 17th season. A consummate pro, and unquestionable leader -- whatever team decides to sign him will get a talent upgrade. The desire to put him in a Panthers' uniform is clear, but there's a far better player who could be added for less money, and fits the team's direction better.
Making the shift from cornerback to safety was Woodson's way to extend his career. It's a smart move, and one we've seen players make before. Last year Ronde Barber did it, and it bought him one more year -- deciding to retire this week. On the surface the Panthers need a safety, Woodson needs a team, but dig a little deeper and it makes less sense.
His body type asserts him purely at a free safety at this point. At 6'1, 202-lbs, he lacks the necessary size to play in the box -- especially in a division where Doug Martin (215-lbs), and Steve Jackson (240-lbs) now represent the best opposing runners. The Panthers want to play Charles Godfrey at free safety, where his issues with tackling can be mitigated, and he is better suited to use his ball skills. Pairing Godfrey and Woodson creates same flawed issues we saw with Sherrod Martin and Godfrey.
Instead of adding the 36-year-old Woodson, the better option is Kerry Rhodes who was cut by the Arizona Cardinals. Six years younger, he has the ability to be retained longer than a one-year option, provided he suits what the Panthers are looking to do. Furthermore, he's been a safety his entire career (versus a position conversion), and he is still coming off a productive season.
Starting 15 games in 2012, Rhodes finished with 67 tackles, one sack, two forced fumbles, 11 passes defended, and four interceptions. He can be effectively paired with Charles Godfrey at SS, and not upset the team's direction too much.
Right now the discussion on which safety to sign is a moot point. The Panthers will enter training camp and evaluate this roster, and Gettleman will continue his "this answer is sometimes on the roster" line. However, if the answer isn't there, and the Panthers need to add an additional defensive back to the mix, Woodson would be a mistake -- as talented as he is. Pairing him with Godfrey solves one problem, while creating another. The answer should be Kerry Rhodes, but it's too early to really look at either.