Charles Godfrey took a $4 million pay cut and changed positions for the Panthers this year, but ultimately he just wasn’t fast enough for the team in a passing league.
The Panthers released the defensive back after seven weeks of Godfrey looking slow in coverage as a nickel cornerback less than a year after suffering an Achilles tear.
Godfrey, in his seventh season, had converted from safety to nickel cornerback this season as the Panthers brought in Thomas DeCoud and Roman Harper in the offseason. He took a pay cut this spring that slashed his base salary from $5 million to $750,000.
“Making this move was difficult because Charles has been a large part of what we have done since I came to Carolina four years ago,” Panthers coach Ron Rivera said in a statement. “He has always tried to do everything we have asked of him and worked extremely hard. He is an outstanding young man and we wish him the very best.”
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Godfrey was given first-team reps at nickel corner throughout training camp and preseason, although it was evident rookie Bené Benwikere was better flowing to the football and making plays.
Godfrey started in Week 1 but was soon relegated to backup duty behind Benwikere. But when the former San Jose State star sprained his ankle in Week 5 against Chicago, Godfrey became the starter again.
In the first half against the Bengals and frequently against the Packers, Godfrey was consistently exposed for his lack of speed. He showed good instincts in recognizing slants and underneath routes, and he tackled well, but he was slow getting to the ball.
Rivera said Monday doctors and trainers weren’t as optimistic for Benwikere’s return this week as he would have liked. The Panthers re-signed cornerback James Dockery two weeks ago for added depth, and he worked at nickel last week.
Starting cornerback Antoine Cason has experience playing nickel in both Arizona and San Diego, but the seven-year veteran has not played at nickel for the Panthers, and he also has issues with his speed.