Panthers' Current Situation at Safety
The Carolina Panthers are most likely going to be entering next season with a new starter at one of the two safety positions. After the season ended for the Panthers in Super Bowl 50, the contract of Roman Harper was voided, resulting in $900,000 in dead money. The likely hood of Harper returning next season seems highly unlikely and it now begs the question of where the Panthers go from here.
The team does potentially already have his replacement on the roster in Tre Boston, who started for the defense down the stretch of the 2014 season. He saw his role diminish in 2015 as a primary backup behind Harper and Kurt Coleman however played well in limited action. The team may be willing to promote him to a full-time starter in 2016 with another year of experience.
If the team is looking for their replacement in free agency, these could be some options for the defense.
Free Agent Safeties
Scout.com's Rank: #2 Safety
He may not be a long term answer but probably the best safety available would be Eric Weddle. The former San Diego Chargers' safety did not end on good terms with his former team and it is almost a certainty that he will be playing somewhere else in 2016.
At 31 years of age, it remains to be seen how much football he has left but has played at a high level for a number of years. He has been named to the Pro Bowl three out of the last five years and has had 95 or more tackles in four out of the past six seasons.
While the Panthers do have a need at safety, Dave Gettleman has not been one to dish out big contracts to free agents. I don't think he starts here either and Weddle seems to be a longshot at this point.
Scout.com's Rank: #10 Safety
Last year, the Panthers found the perfect fit with a former Kansas City Chiefs' safety in Kurt Coleman. Well another former Chief is a free agent that could be a logical choice for this defense.
Husain Abdullah was the Chiefs' starting safety in 2014 and finished with 71 tackles, 10 passes defended, one interception and one defensive touchdown. However, he lost his starting job to the returning Eric Berry and saw his numbers drop to only 29 tackles and one pass defended.
The addition of Abdullah makes plenty of sense because he can provide depth at the safety position and compete for the starting role with Boston. However, the signing of him wouldn't necessarily guarantee him a starting role.
Scout.com's Rank: #15 Safety
The Tennessee Titans released their long-time safety Michael Griffin and could be a quality veteran to add to the back of this secondary. He is coming off back to back seasons with more than 100 tackles and has 25 interceptions over his nine years in the league.
However, at this point in his career it is hard to expect Griffin to be a full-time starter. He certainly has value and can still play but he would be best utilized in a part-time role or a timeshare with another player. If the Panthers are not ready to fully dedicate to the idea of Boston as a starter, this would be a good short-term option.
I believe the Panthers will be adding another safety this offseason, it just remains to be seen whether that happens in free agency or the draft. I would have to lean towards free agency at this point considering the team did draft Tre Boston two years ago and may be ready to give him a chance to prove he can be a starter.
The front office obviously would like to have a backup plan and if they are able to sign a player like Husain Abdullah at a reasonable contract, that seems to be the best case scenario.
For a full list of free agents, click here.