For this free agent signing by the Carolina Panthers, and all signings from this point forward, we will be breaking the move down into four categories. Each category is worth up to 25 points and a final grade will be handed out based on the total score. These are the definitions of each category:
Player- How has the player produced to this point in his career? Where does he rank among other players at his position?
Team Fit- How does he fit within the offensive or defensive scheme?
Team Need- Is this position a weak spot on the roster? Does this move strengthen the position?
Contract- Is this a reasonable contract based on production? Did the team over spend or did they get a steal?
Grade: 23 out of 25
Brandon Boykin was drafted in the fourth round by the Philadelphia Eagles and played the first three years of his career in the city of Brotherly Love. He had a breakout season in 2013 when he had six interceptions, two forced fumbles and one defensive touchdown. He was traded to the Pittsburgh Steelers prior to last year and played very well over the final six games of the season, including two playoff games.
Boykin has made a nice career for himself, playing to his strengths and is considered one of the top slot cornerbacks in the league. At 5'10", the Eagles and Steelers have had concerns about playing him outside, afraid that offenses would target him with running back sweeps and wide receiver screens.
Even though he may not be a considered a "starter", defenses have been playing three cornerback sets more frequently and Boykin will strengthen the Panthers' secondary.
Grade: 25 out of 25
As I mentioned above, teams have had to transition to more nickel defenses as offenses pass more frequently and try to spread out defenses. The Panthers have started to use the nickel defense much more the past two seasons and Boykin is the perfect fit for the slot corner.
Boykin has speed and quickness and should have no problem covering a wide receiver or even a running back coming out of the backfield. He also has shown an ability to force turnovers with eight career interceptions and five forced fumbles, something the Panthers' defense excelled at last year.
Grade: 25 out of 25
The Panthers' secondary was hit hard by injuries last year losing both Charles Tillman and Bene Benwikere at the end of the regular season. They were forced to start two free agents off the street (Robert McClain and Cortland Finnegan), who did enough to help the team get by during the playoffs.
The team was looking to make some changes in the secondary this offseason and Ron Rivera had already mentioned that Benwikere, who was the slot corner at the start of the year, would be moved to the outside full-time. The team also have not re-signed Tillman or Finnegan, which left a glaring hole at the nickelback position.
The addition of Boykin has changed the position from a weakness to a strength.
Grade: 24 out of 25
The Panthers under Dave Gettleman have not offered big contracts to free agents and only once have they offered a deal longer than two-years (Gino Gradkowski received a three-year deal).
This is one time that would have made sense to offer a long-term deal as Boykin is only 25. Now this is not to say that they didn't and Boykin may have only wanted to sign a one-year deal. He may not have been happy with the market and the deals he was being offered. He could believe that playing on an excellent defense like Carolina could only help his stock and he would be in line for a bigger deal next offseason.
Grade: 97 out of 100
This is by far one of the best free agent signings Dave Gettleman has made in his tenure. He was able to bring in a player who hasn't reached his prime yet, but is already considered one of the best slot cornerbacks in the league and addresses one of the biggest weaknesses on this team.
This is a great pick-up for the Panthers and makes their defense that much tougher to beat as they try to make a return trip to the Super Bowl.