On Wednesday, the Atlanta Falcons severed ties with cornerback Asante Samuel. That, however, doesn’t mean that he’s done in the NFC South.
The Panthers fielded one of the most dominant defenses in the league this past season, but have some serious concerns at cornerback heading into the offseason. Two of their top three cornerbacks, Captain Munnerlyn and Drayton Florence, are set to be free agents as of March 11. While it’s believed Munnerlyn will be re-signed, Florence might opt to cash in on his big 2013 campaign via free agency.
If Florence tests the open market, the Panthers could choose to replace one veteran with another.
While it’s obvious that Samuel’s best days are behind him, the 33-year old showed last year that he’s still capable of holding his own in coverage. He finished the year with a -0.2 grade on Pro Football Focus’ scale, accumulating 35 tackles, one interception and two passes defended throughout the season. It wasn’t a standout year for Samuel, but it wasn’t a terrible one either.
If signed by the Panthers, Samuel wouldn’t be much more than depth. Assuming Munnerlyn returns to Carolina, he’d hold down the No. 1 cornerback spot while Melvin White and Josh Thomas battle for No. 2 duties. Samuel would be a solid sub-package cornerback who can provide some veteran leadership in the secondary.
That is, if he comes at the right price.
The reason the Falcons released him in the first place was to free up about $4.5 million in cap space. It’s still be to seen what type of contract Samuel will be looking for, but he’s worth the investment if the Panthers can get him near the veteran minimum.
The other link between Samuel and the Panthers is defensive coordinator Sean McDermott, who coached the veteran during their days with the Philadelphia Eagles. If the price is right and McDermott feels comfortable with where Samuel is at physically, a deal could come to fruition.
It’s certainly not a solve-all, but Samuel might just give the Panthers the depth they need to feel comfortable at cornerback moving forward.