NFL Notebook

Panthers keep Munnerlyn

jperson@charlotteobserver.comMarch 20, 2013 

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Carolina Panthers' Captain Munnerlyn (41) heads to the endzone after intercepting a pass intended for Tampa Bay Buccaneers' Dallas Clark (44) during the first quarter at Bank of America Stadium on November 18, 2012. The Panthers led, 14-10, at halftime. David T. Foster III-dtfoster@charlotteobserver.com

DAVID T. FOSTER III — dtfoster@charlotteobserver.com Buy Photo

— The Panthers continued to fortify their secondary, agreeing to terms Wednesday with cornerback Captain Munnerlyn and former Oakland safety Mike Mitchell.

Munnerlyn said he agreed to a one-year deal to return to the Panthers. It’s an incentive-laden contract that could be worth more than $1 million, with about $500,000 guaranteed, according to a league source.

Munnerlyn also had an offer from Chicago, which was looking for a replacement for nickelback D.J. Moore after the Panthers signed him this week.

Munnerlyn wasn’t sure he’d be back with Carolina after the Panthers acquired Moore and veteran corner Drayton Florence.

“I thought it was over when they signed D.J. I said, ‘Well, they got a nickel,’ ” Munnerlyn said. “But I guess I’m still in their plans, so that’s exciting.”

In Mitchell, the Panthers are bringing in a safety who was a backup for four seasons with the Raiders. Mitchell, who received a one-year deal, will compete with Haruki Nakamura and D.J. Campbell at strong safety.

“Whoever’s there, I’m ready to compete against,” Mitchell said.

Mitchell, 25, started nine games in Oakland, where he backed up Tyvon Branch. Mitchell, who also had an offer from Cincinnati, has 3.5 sacks and two interceptions in 60 career games.

Nakamura signed with the Panthers last offseason after backing up Ed Reed in Baltimore. Nakamura lost his starting job after giving up a couple of crucial big plays, and took a pay cut this winter.

Mitchell, 6-1 and 216 pounds, said he’s a physical and versatile safety.

Urlacher no longer a Bear

The Chicago Bears are parting ways with veteran linebacker Brian Urlacher after 13 years.

The eight-time Pro Bowler started 180 games from 2000 through 2012, recording a team-record 1,779 tackles. The ninth overall selection in the 2000 draft has 41.5 sacks, 22 interceptions, 16 fumble recoveries and 11 forced fumbles. Associated Press

NFL passes helmet rule, ends tuck rule

NFL owners passed a player safety rule Wednesday in Phoenix barring ball carriers from using the crown of their helmets to make forcible contact with a defender in the open field.

Its passage by a 31-1 vote – Cincinnati voted no – was the second significant step in protecting defensive players. On Tuesday, the league took the peel-back block out of the game.

The tuck rule, one of the most criticized rules in pro football, was eliminated. Now, if a quarterback loses control of the ball before he has fully protected it after opting not to throw, it is a fumble.

Video review now will be allowed on plays when a coach challenges, even if not allowed to. But the coach will be penalized or lose a timeout, depending on when he threw the challenge flag. AP

Around the league

Houston: Free-agent cornerback Brice McCain signed a three-year contract to stay with the Texans.

Indianapolis: The team signed free agent defensive tackle Aubrayo Franklin and is bringing back offensive guard Joe Reitz.

New England: The Patriots re-signed cornerback Marquice Cole and linebacker Niko Koutouvides.

Washington: The Redskins filled at least one hole in their depleted secondary by agreeing to terms with free agent cornerback E.J. Biggers. AP

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