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Panthers to meet with Thomas DeCoud, ‘evaluating’ Charles Godfrey

  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/04/03/21/10/1hVNJv.Em.138.jpeg|323
    John Bazemore - AP
    Atlanta Falcons linebacker Curtis Lofton (50) celebrates his interception for a touchdown as free safety Thomas DeCoud (28) cheers during the first half of an NFL football game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday, Jan. 1, 2012, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/04/03/21/10/aaCSv.Em.138.jpeg|361
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The Carolina Panthers are working on a possible safety plan at their safety position.

They are bringing in former Atlanta Falcons safety Thomas DeCoud for a visit next week, creating more questions about free safety Charles Godfrey’s future in Charlotte.

A league source confirmed DeCoud’s trip to Carolina.

The Panthers’ secondary remains in flux after two starters – cornerback Captain Munnerlyn and safety Mike Mitchell – left in free agency. Two other starters or contributors – safety Quintin Mikell and corner Drayton Florence – are not expected back.

If he signs with Carolina, DeCoud would become the second safety to join the Panthers from an NFC South rival. Former New Orleans strong safety Roman Harper agreed to a two-year, $4.5 million deal last month.

The Panthers also have second-year safety Robert Lester, who started four games as an undrafted rookie, on the roster.

Godfrey’s health and status will be critical in determining how the secondary takes shape. When healthy, he is a fast, hard-hitting safety capable of playing near the line of scrimmage or in a deep alignment.

Godfrey, 28, a starter since the Panthers drafted him in the third round in 2008, is recovering from Achilles surgery that sidelined him for the final 14 games last season.

Because of his $7.1 million salary cap figure for 2014, Godfrey has been mentioned throughout the offseason as a candidate to have his contract restructured. If he refuses to re-work his deal or the Panthers aren’t confident in his Achilles, they could save $5 million in cap space by cutting him and designating him as a post-June 1 release.

Panthers general manager Dave Gettleman was non-committal when asked about Godfrey at last week’s league meetings in Orlando.

“He’s part of the evaluation. He’s got to get healthy first,” Gettleman said. “We’re evaluating.”

DeCoud, who recently visited Detroit, would give the Panthers experienced depth at the position, likely at a reasonable price.

DeCoud, 29, was a starter for five seasons in Atlanta before the Falcons released him last month in a cost-cutting move. He was set to make $4.2 million this year in Atlanta.

A third-round pick out of Cal in 2008, he plays both safety spots and went to the Pro Bowl after the 2012 season.

But he struggled last year, finishing with a career-low 44 tackles and failing to make an interception for the first time since becoming a starter.

Person: 704-358-5123; Twitter: @josephperson
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