Contract: 2 years / $2,800,000
Stats: 90 total tackles, 1 sack, 7 interceptions, 9 passes defended, 1 defensive touchdown
In terms of production it would have been a tie between Kurt Coleman and Ted Ginn Jr. for best free agent signing by the Carolina Panthers. However, the average salary of $1,400,000 for Coleman is an incredible bargain for a player who finished one interception short of the league lead in interceptions.
After a few seasons with limited playing time, Coleman had a bounce back season in his first year with Carolina. He was reunited with defensive coordinator Sean McDermott, who he had some of his best seasons playing for with the Philadelphia Eagles.
He showed an ability to make game-changing plays with an interception in five straight games, and six over seven games. He also returned one of those for a touchdown on Thanksgiving Day against the Dallas Cowboys. The secondary is expected to see some changes this offseason but the emergence of Coleman helps solidify one half of the safety duo.
Ted Ginn Jr.
Contract: 2 years / $4,200,000
Stats: 44 receptions, 739 receiving yards, 10 touchdowns, 27 punt returns, 10.3 yards per punt return
The addition of Ted Ginn Jr. didn't appear to be as much of a necessity at the time of the signing as it did once the regular season began. The veteran wide receiver's return to Carolina, after a year with the Arizona Cardinals, was thought to be a way to add speed to the offense and help shore up the return game.
When the offense lost Kelvin Benjamin, it was Ginn who stepped up to be the team's best wide receiver. He finished the year with 10 receiving touchdowns, and was one of 13 receivers to catch double digit touchdowns. The duo of Cam Newton and Ted Ginn Jr. became one of the more explosive duos in the league. He finished fifth in the league in yards per reception with an average of 16.8 among wide receivers with at least 40 receptions.
The only real blemish for Ginn this past season was the dropped passes. According to Sporting Charts, he finished the regular season tied for second with 10 drops.
The return of Benjamin next year, could actually help Ginn match or even surpass his totals from this past season. Opposing defenses are going to need to dedicate more attention to Benjamin and this could open up more room for the veteran.
Contract: 2 years / $7,000,000
Stats: Started every game at left tackle
The emergence of Michael Oher was a tremendous boost to this Panthers' offense and helped Newton have an MVP season. The Panthers knew they had to address the left tackle position last offseason and there wasn't many option in free agency nor at the end of the first round in the NFL Draft.
Oher was certainly a risk and there were questions about whether he could stay healthy and if he could return to the level of play that he did early in his career. Both of those questions were answered with an emphatic 'yes' as Oher solidified this offensive line.
The veteran tackle isn't necessarily the long-term answer at the left tackle position however the team should feel confident in Oher protecting Newton's blindside for one more season.
Contract: 1 year / $2,000,000
Stats: 55 total tackles, 2 interceptions, 2 forced fumbles, 7 passes defended
The other glaring hole last offseason was at cornerback opposite Josh Norman. The team did have Bene Benwikere but he is much more suited to play the nickel position and line up inside. The addition of Charles Tillman allowed the team to do just that and the veteran played well over the first half of the season.
However, the 34-year old cornerback has struggled to stay healthy and he suffered another season-ending injury when he tore his ACL in the third to last game of the regular season against the NY Giants. He made two key plays in that game when he forced a fumble in the first half and then intercepted Eli Manning in the end zone in the second half.
He did play in 12 games this year, which is actually more than he played in the previous two seasons. However, the fact that he wasn't able to play all year hurt his grade here.
*All contract and cap space figures courtesy of Spotrac.