The word around the Panthers the last few weeks was Charles Godfrey’s best shot for a 2014 roster spot was at nickel back. He’s not 100 percent back from a Week 2 Achilles tear, and he had to take a hefty pay cut, but he’d have a chance to return at safety and nickel.
Yet near the end of an NFL Draft wrap-up conference call with Carolina media on Saturday, Panthers’ general manager Dave Gettleman announced that Godfrey’s time as a safety is over. He’s now a cornerback, who will also compete at nickel.
While Godfrey may be listed as a corner, it’s hard to see him actually playing much on the outside.
To understand why, let’s rewind to 2008.
Godfrey, who started 25 of his 28 games in college at Iowa, ran an impressive 4.38 40-yard dash at the Combine. But most believed his field speed wasn’t as fast as his timed speed. That included the Panthers.
After drafting him in the third round, they immediately moved him to safety, questioning his straight-line speed and ability to make it work as an NFL corner.
As a rookie safety, Godfrey started all 16 games, and before last year’s devastating injury, missed just seven games his first five seasons.
While an Achilles is one of the toughest injuries for an NFL player to recover from, his rehab has gone well as possible. But if he wasn’t fast enough to play corner coming out of college, it’s unlikely he’ll be able to pull it off after tearing his Achilles.
There’s a good chance Godfrey is now a corner so he can help mentor a group that needs one. Captain Munnerlyn is in Minnesota and Drayton Florence is unlikely to return. The other corners on the roster, by years of NFL experience:
- 7 – Antoine Cason
- 4 – James Dockery, Josh Thomas
- 3 – Josh Norman
- 2 – Melvin White, De’Quan Menzie
- 0 – Bene Benwikere
Cason is new here, while White, an undrafted rookie in 2013, is the favorite to start on the other corner. The Panthers could use a seven-year veteran like Godfrey to help push the young guys. “This is about competition,” head coach Ron Rivera said.
Yet Godfrey’s true competition will likely come at nickel. The Panthers traded up to take Benwikere in the fifth-round Saturday. He’s smart, with great instincts and ball skills, but is he ready to slide right into the increasingly important nickel job?
Godfrey’s main position may have changed, but the team’s hope for him at nickel hasn’t.
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