It’s the last line of defense. They are the guys who usually wind up with much of the glory when they pull down the interceptions and most of the blame when a receiver winds up streaking past them. And the Carolina Panthers’ secondary has been less than stellar especially in creating turnovers.
With Mike Minter forced into retirement last year, this group took a big hit. The problem is that the team had left themselves vulnerable to such an ocurrence by not being aggressive enough in upgrading before the season began.
There are some guys who are potential free agents this season who would make for some solid signings but the safety spot, the Panthers’ biggest area of need on defense, is not so strong.
CB, Asante Samuel, New England Patriots : He’s considered one of the top, if not the top, cornerbacks in the game. The game that will play out between Samuel and the Pats will be interesting. Rumors have been rampant that the Jets want to steal him away and the team appears ready to offer an extension. Either way, Samuel’s play over the last two seasons (16 total ints.) has earned him a very big payday whether it’s in Foxboro or elsewhere.
S, Mike Doss, Minnesota Vikings : It wasn’t exactly a big year for Doss. He played in only half the games and finished the season with only 6 tackles with no interceptions. He couldn’t crack the starting lineup in Minnesota. After signing with the Vikings as a free agent from Indy, he’s not exactly warranted the payday he received. There may be mild interest if he is allowed to leave the ten thousand lakes behind.
CB, Drayton Florence, San Diego Chargers : The Chargers were confident that youngster Antonio Cromartie would assume the starting spot being manned by Florence. But the five-year veteran has held on to the spot. The real question is for next season and what the team expects to do at that corner position. They may be counting on making the change and allowing Florence to leave. He would likely be a decent starter elsewhere.
CB, Randall Gay, New England Patriots : Any team looking to bring in a free agent cornerback can easily make a case for Gay who is only 25 years old. All the press ink goes to Asante Samuel in the Pats’ secondary but Gay has been solid also. He had a good if not great season in ’07 with 38 tackles, 3 interceptions, 1 forced fumble and a touchdown. There will be an effort in Foxboro to keep him around but the team might find that difficult to do considering they have several high profile players to attempt to retain.
CB, Marcus Trufant, Seattle Seahawks : During the salary cap era it’s been difficult to judge whether a player will definitely hit the market or not. But in Trufant’s case it’s extremely likely that he’ll be allowed to shop his services considering that his contract was voided based on performance escalators. He had a solid year with 85 tackles, 7 interceptions and a touchdown. He would be a solid addition for a team in need of secondary help.
FS, Ken Hamlin, Dallas Cowboys : There are a number of reports out of Happy Valley that the ‘Boys want to keep Hamlin in town. He had a solid year (62 tackles, 5 ints.). But you just have to know that Jerry Jones wants to keep him considering that he’s only 26 years old. Plus, Hamlin is an Arkansas grad and we all know how much Jones loves those Razorbacks. Efforts are being made to re-sign Hamlin. If a deal can’t be reached he will be a pretty popular guy around the league.
For a complete list of available defensive backs, see our Free Agents Page.
The Panthers may have come up short last season in the turnover department for a number of reasons. It could have been a lack of pass rush from the front seven, it could have been the defensive schemes and it could have been the lack of talent in the secondary.
The corners in Carolina are solid even if Ken Lucas is allowed to leave. It’s the safeties that have become the concern. Free agency could provide some options at cornerback but limited options at safety. The team may not be shopping through this group for a safety but could be looking to upgrade that spot in the draft. Either way, a move could and probably should be made this offseason.