Carolina Panthers: Defensive moves signal start to free agency

Carolina Panthers set to sign a safety after veteran’s release.

NFL teams officially begin the 2020 season on Wednesday but general managers are already talking to players’ agents in hopes of securing a signing once allowed. The Carolina Panthers are no exception and even before anything is official, moves are being anticipated in an effort to transform the Carolina secondary.

With the anticipated departure of cornerback James Bradberry via free agency, Donte Jackson and Eric Reid are the only secondary starters expected to make a return next season. These moves leave vacancies opposite one another at both the safety and cornerback positions in the defensive backfield.

A veteran backup safety and special teams captain, Colin Jones, also asked for his release. With Tre Boston also expected to move on, the Panthers have an obvious need alongside Reid. For this purpose, former Cleveland Browns safety – Juston Burris will join Carolina and compete for a starting position.

The former fourth-round pick and Raleigh native spent time with three different teams, including the Browns twice, during his four professional seasons. A relatively inexpensive option, whether Burris can provide depth or become a starter remains to be seen.

Replacing Jones, who started 14 games in eight seasons, shouldn’t be too difficult but his impacts on special teams exceeded expectations. Named a captain for the second time in 2019, Jones reportedly didn’t want to be part of a “rebuilding process” in Carolina and is now free to sign elsewhere on Wednesday.

Carolina will also add defensive lineman Stephen Weatherly once able to officially put ink to paper. Don’t expect these defensive moves to be final, as general manger Marty Hurney and first-year coach Matt Rhule also prepare for the upcoming draft.

Next: Defense, Quarterback Targeted in Mock Draft

Scheduled for April 23-25, there are multiple areas on defense – defensive line, linebacker, safety and cornerback – that could be justified if targeted on day one.

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