[Photo: Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images]
The Carolina Panthers have been in the news of late because of the release of wide receiver Steve Smith. General Manager Dave Gettleman is not looking so good in the public eye the way he handled the Steve Smith situation. But before that all happened, impending free agent Mike Mitchell, an enforcer at safety left for a big money deal in Pittsburgh.
So that gave Dave Gettleman even more incentive to go into free agency to strengthen the secondary and replace safety Mike Mitchell.
He just found Mike Mitchell’s replacement and that is veteran safety Roman Harper.
Roman Harper has agreed to a two year, $4.5 million contract with the Panthers. The deal included a $1.5 million signing bonus.
Harper, 31, is a two-time Pro Bowler, who was a leader for New Orleans Saints’ defense for the past eight years at strong safety.
Last season, the 6-foot-1, 200-pounder, played in nine games recording 39 tackles, one interception and one pass defended with the Saints. His 17 sacks are the most in the NFL by any defensive back since 2006, and his 13 forced fumbles are tied for sixth among defensive backs in that span.
Harper and Mitchell have a very similar skill set and that is a blessing and curse. Harper’s strength is that he is hard hitter and brings a certain physicality to your secondary. However, his weakness is he is a liability in coverage because he lacks the speed and lateral quickness to be effective on third down. Therefore, Harper is a two down safety who is a hard hitter. So that makes people ask the question; why did they sign Harper?
The answer is that the Panthers do not have a lot of cap space because they used the franchise tag on defensive end Greg Hardy, therefore they have to bargain shop during free agency.
Gettleman is in tough situation because he essentially is starting with nothing in the secondary and he does not have the money to bring in quality players in the secondary. So you got to wonder what kind of players are the Panthers going to be able to sign because if Harper is any indication of the kind of player the Panthers are bringing in, fans should worried because the secondary is going to struggle.