It was a fun thought while it lasted.
The Panthers are looking to strengthen their safety group. So Eric Berry, an embodiment of Carolina’s “Keep Pounding” mantra, would have been an ideal addition.
That option, of course, was taken off the table last week when the Chiefs made Berry the NFL’s highest-paid safety.
But the Panthers, assuming Kansas City would have at least kept their five-time Pro Bowler via the franchise tag for a second straight season, never made Berry a realistic part of their offseason planning. Instead, their sights have focused on a guy with a similar name.
According to sources, the Panthers are expected to make a run at Barry Church, who will become a free agent when the new league year opens Thursday afternoon.
Church, who’s spent the first seven years of his career in Dallas, is one of nine Cowboys’ defenders set to hit the open market. He’s not much of a ballhawk – totaling just five career interceptions – but if the Panthers land Church, he could take over at strong safety, which would allow Kurt Coleman to move back to free safety.
After entering the league as an undrafted free agent in 2010, Church turned himself into a reliable piece of the Dallas secondary. He’s started all but five games since 2013, and he’s been a Cowboys’ captain in each of the past two seasons.
Not only would Church, who turned 29 last month, add leadership to the Panthers’ secondary, but he’d also bring some needed physicality.
While they saw some improvements from Tre Boston late last season, the Panthers aren’t sold on him as a starter. So if they don’t end up getting a deal done with Church, other free agent options could include guys like John Cyprien or D.J. Swearinger.
The Jaguars are letting Cyprien, a 2013 second-round pick who led NFL defensive backs with 127 tackles in 2016, see what he can get elsewhere. But according to Kent Somers of The Arizona Republic, the Cardinals will likely try to re-sign Swearinger.