Kurt Coleman: A Mike Mitchell Redux

Excited for what's to come. Glad to be apart of the Panther family !

A photo posted by Kurt Coleman (@k4cole27) on

The Carolina Panthers signed safety Kurt Coleman, formerly with the Kansas City Chiefs, to a 2-yr contract. It’s a move, much like Mike Mitchell in 2013, that may just be Gettle-magic.  At just 2.8 million with a mere 600k guaranteed, the contract is tremendously team friendly, landing Carolina a player with a nose for the ball who is hungry to make his way back into a starting rotation. 

Safety, it’s a position Carolina desperately needs depth at and could even use a steroid shot in the arm.  Tre’ Boston played well at the end, and Harper played well enough, but since Mitchell’s departure Carolina hasn’t had a guy who can drop down in the box or deliver a mean shot deep over the middle.   

So did Carolina get a steal?

Knowing little more than that Coleman was a 7th round pick for the Philadelphia Eagles who flourished under now Carolina coordinator Sean McDermott and then found his way on the outs with the calculating Chip Kelly regime after a hamstring injury before today, I decided to do a little digging.

Coleman, according to ESPN’s Phil Sheridan, “both exceeded and then didn't meet expectations” in Philadelphia. He was a guy Sheridan described as the front office “perennially trying to replace,” after impressively starting 29 games in his first three season, notching 7 interceptions, forcing two fumbles, and making 177 tackles. 

Coleman next landed in Minnesota playing well throughout the preseason, but didn’t impress enough to make the final roster on a stout and crowded defense.  Kansas City quickly scooped up Coleman for special teams help and as a rotational player in a star-studded secondary.  It’s hard make a mark when behind guys like Ron Parker and Husain Abdullah, but Coleman managed to lead the team with three interceptions after playing only 386 snaps.  

Intrigued by the stat-line and wanting to know more about Coleman, so I reached out to The Kansas City Star beat writer, Terez Paylor, for his take on Coleman’s play with the Chiefs and his potential moving forward. Paylor commented:

I think he has a chance to be a starter in the league. I liked what he did in a reserve role for the Chiefs. He’ll come up and hit you and also led the team in interceptions. There was mutual interest in a return, but the Chiefs re-signed Parker to be a starter, and Husain Abdullah returns, as well. They also got Tyvon Branch - who they really like - on a one-year prove-it deal. So I don’t think his departure had anything to do with the way Kurt played; I think Kurt wanted a chance to be a starter and it wasn’t going to happen in KC unless Parker left.
— Terez Paylor, The Kansas City Star

Another Mike Mitchell?

Coleman to Carolina is strikingly reminiscent of Mike Mitchell’s stint 2013 stint with the Panthers.  Both played college ball in Ohio. Mitchell at OU and Coleman at OSU. Both are big hitters with a nose for the ball, and both found themselves on struggling defenses earlier in their career.  Later, both found themselves looking for a second lease on life after failing to meet expectations.  

Mike Mitchell

Mike Mitchell

Mitchell wasn’t viewed as a day-one starter when he arrived in Charlotte, and neither will Coleman. The opportunity is there, however, and like Paylor indicated Coleman’s desire to start played a significant role in his departure from Kansas City.  Confirming his desire at his signing, Coleman stated, “I know I can start in this league, no question, … Wherever I would go, I feel as though I’m good enough to play. I want to earn a starting spot. I want to start again and they believe that I can come in here and have the opportunity to.” 

Much like Mitchell the marriage could ultimately be a brief one if Coleman finds similar success. Fortunately, Carolina signed Coleman to a 2-year contract.  Mitchell had a one-year make it or break it deal, while Coleman has an even friendlier earn or burn it contract where the Panthers could get another cheap year out of a player who’s only negotiating power would be to sit-out, to be cut for being a headache, or signed to a new deal.  He could perform well enough and be a strong enough locker-room presence, however, that Carolina willingly looks to negotiate an extended deal, somewhat similar to the recent re-signing of Ed Dickson. 

A Good Fit

There’s no way to tell if Coleman will pan out or windup just as a blip on the radar for a free agency starved fan base which is overly optimistic about any move. But fit matters, and the Panthers made it clear that was  a big reason they brought Coleman to Carolina. He’s a “versatile safety who can play both spots,” Rivera noted, and continuing, “He’s athletic, he’s intelligent, and will understand the system, having worked with Sean (McDermott) before. He’s a very consistent player and also adds special teams ability. That is something we’ve talked about improving upon and we’ve made some moves this offseason looking for guys that can help us on special teams.”

Add to this versatility, Coleman has shown he flourishes in a defense that has a strong front-seven and produces even if it is in a supportive role.  This is perfect for a team with a popular veteran with both the players and coaching staff like Roman Harper.  Coleman can rotate in and replace when either the aches and pains start to hamper the old man or even shift over to free safety if the green Tre’ Boston experiences a sophomore slump.  

Ultimately, the fit is great.  Coleman is low-risk, high reward, and dirt-cheap.  Hat's off to the Gettle-magician, for Coleman could buy Carolina some time at strong safety, or even just fit right in for longer than expected.  If not and it's hat's off to Coleman, Carolina doesn't lose a thing. 

By the Professor, aka Tony Dunn