Carolina had 21 free agents hit the market after the 2014 season. It was a mix of restricted and unrestricted free agents that featured more departures than it did additions. Among the departures was starting safety Mike Mitchell. Losing the hard-hitting safety reopened a void that had never been fully filled since the departure of Mike Minter years before. Thus began Carolina fans' quest for a long-term answer at both safety positions.
That same year, Carolina signed an unheralded backup safety, Kurt Coleman, to fill out this backfield that really had been piecemealed by Dave Gettleman for the last few years. Coleman was a versatile player who could play free or strong safety and quickly established himself as a starter in Carolina. It was a collision of talent and opportunity that three years later resulted in his being named a team captain on the Panthers defense.
The same year Carolina signed Coleman, Jarius Byrd signed a mega 6-year/56 million dollar contract with the New Orleans Saints. Byrd was one of those high-profile free agent names that every fan base, including Panthers fans, became enamored with. He was a proven player who was entering the prime of his career, but far out of the Panthers price range and in a position that the organization just never seems to allocate that many resources too. Byrd, however, struggled with injury throughout his stint in New Orleans and was released after three seasons because of salary implications and the perpetual overhaul of the Saints defense.
Ironically, Kurt Coleman's sprained knee that will sideline him for the next several weeks brought Byrd to Carolina. Byrd, who was once the most highly acclaimed free agent, will now fill in for Coleman, who just three years ago was an unknown commodity.
Losing Coleman was a big loss for this Panthers defense. It, however, is an opportunity for a veteran who battled injury and being part of a pretty crappy unit, to find a second life on a team that needs a guy who can play but doesn't have to be the solution.
By Tony Dunn
Follow @Cat_Chronicles for the latest Panthers news and opinions from the fan perspective.