Safety Deke Cooper, a former NFL Europe League Defensive MVP who played 10 games for the Panthers in 2002, signed a one-year contract with the team and could provide some depth to a depleted safety position. Mike Minter, who is 33, is the only player with any legitimate experience at safety since the team with unrestricted free agents Shaun Williams and Colin Branch still unsigned.
The 6-foot-2, 210-pound Cooper has limited NFL experience, appearing in one game for San Francisco last year. He notched one special teams tackle and one fumble recovery. In four NFL seasons with Carolina, Jacksonville and San Francisco, he has played in 57 games with 22 starts and has recorded 190 tackles, three interceptions, 12 passes defensed, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries.
The Panthers also announced three other minor free agent acquisitions -- cornerback Curtis Deloatch, defensive tackle Chad Lavalais and defensive end Dave Ball.
Deloatch (6-2, 217 pounds) played in seven games for New Orleans last year and produced nine tackles, one pass defensed and one fumble recovery. In three NFL seasons with the New York Giants and New Orleans Saints, he has played in 39 games with 13 starts and has compiled 80 tackles, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery, one interception and 13 passes defensed. Deloatch entered the league as an undrafted rookie free agent from North Carolina A&T with the Giants in 2004.
The 6-foot-1, 292-pound Lavalais did not play last year after being waived by Atlanta in the final roster cutdown. In two NFL seasons with Atlanta, he has played in 30 games with 19 starts and has registered 75 tackles, 2.5 sacks, two fumble recoveries and three passes defensed. Lavalais was drafted in the fifth round (142nd overall) of the 2004 NFL Draft by the Falcons from Louisiana State, where he was an All-Southeastern Conference choice as a senior.
Ball (6-5, 277 pounds) saw action in 10 games for the New York Jets last year and contributed one tackle and two passes defensed. In three NFL seasons with San Diego and New York, he has played in 21 games and has posted 11 tackles and four passes defensed. Ball was drafted in the fourth round (133rd overall) of the 2004 NFL Draft by the Chargers from UCLA, where he set a school record with 16.5 sacks as a senior.