Can Williams fill in at Safety?

The Panthers filled the vacancy left by Marlon McCree's departure by signing veteran strong safety Shaun Williams from the New York Giants to a one-year contract. Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but it's believed Williams received a deal at or around the league's minimum salary. Williams started 60 games during eight seasons with the Giants, but only two in the last two seasons.

He's been plagued by injuries of late, finishing the last three years on injured reserve while missing 28 games. His 2003 and '04 seasons ended due to knee injuries, while a hamstring problem sidelined him for the final eight games last season. Prior to his injury problems in '03, Williams had started 58 straight games for the Giants.

"We feel like he's a talented player," Panthers general manager Marty Hurney said. "We think he can help us out here and hopefully he'll be able to put those injury problems behind him."

It's unclear exactly where Williams, 29, will fit in Carolina's defense.

Like new teammate Mike Minter, Williams has played both free and strong safety during his NFL career. The Panthers consider both positions interchangeable. It's expected Williams' primary competition for a starting job will be Colin Branch, who is returning from a knee injury. However don't be surprised if the Panthers add another safety in free agency or in next month's NFL draft.

With Carolina, Williams will be reunited with John Fox, who coached him for four seasons (1998-2001) in New York, where Fox served as the Giants' defensive coordinator.

Like defensive tackle Damione Lewis, who also was recently signed by the Panthers, Williams is considered a player who hasn't lived up to his status as a former first-round draft pick despite having excellent size (6-2, 218) and speed.

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