Heading in to the third week of free agency, Carolina has roughly $13.6 million available. A portion of of these funds is dedicated to the prospects signed in the upcoming draft. The Panthers do not want to take the cap space to its limit, especially with the contracts coming down the pipeline in 2016, but they do have enough room for one or two shrewd moves leading up to the draft.
All available players now are not hot commodities in the market, and their value could be considered steals if the player lives up to the potential Carolina has mined in past years with players like Kurt Coleman and Jericho Cotchery. Step in, Reggie Nelson.
The co-leader for interceptions last year is finding it difficult to find a new contract, either with his former team in Cincinnati, or anywhere else in free agency thus far. This availability comes as somewhat of a surprise as Nelson is now regarded as the best defensive player available. The nine year veteran out of Florida notched a Pro Bowl invite and second-team All-Pro honors for his performance in 2015. The Bengals have not expressed any interest in re-signing the veteran defensive back.
The idea of him being on the roster is a tantalizing prospect. Let’s break it down.
Why the Panthers should pursue Nelson:
All-Pro: As referenced above, we’re talking about a star player here. The Bengals had one of the best secondaries in the NFL last season, thanks in no small part to Nelson.
Veteran Presence: With the loss of Roman Harper, the unit got much younger overnight. The 32 year old Nelson could be a steady hand and guide for the younger guys on defense.
Roman Harper: This deal could work out the same as Harper’s, who was 31 when he signed with Carolina in 2014. Since no one is breaking down the door to sign Nelson, his contact could come at an extremely team-friendly numbers. Harper signed for 2 years at $4.5 million.
No Rings: Nelson has not won a championship. In fact, he’s spent most of his career on the Jaguars and Bengals, so he hasn’t made it out of the first round of the playoffs since his rookie season. He may be inclined to play for cheap in order to get to a Super Bowl.