Carolina Panthers general manager Dave Gettleman continued his bargain hunting during the latter stages of free agency Thursday, signing free safety Thomas DeCoud and tight end Ed Dickson to improve depth in the secondary and passing game.
DeCoud, the former Atlanta Falcons safety who made the Pro Bowl after the 2012 season, signed a two-year deal, the team announced. Financial terms were undisclosed.
Dickson, who had a 50-catch season in 2011 with the Baltimore Ravens, received a one-year deal. Dickson, 26, agreed to a veteran minimum deal worth $795,000, including a $65,000 signing bonus, according to a league source.
DeCoud, who played six seasons in Atlanta, visited the Panthers on Monday but left without a deal. The two sides kept talking, and the negotiations ended with Carolina signing its second safety this offseason from an NFC South rival.
DeCoud, 29, joins former New Orleans strong safety Roman Harper, who signed a two-year, $4.5 million deal last month.
The addition of DeCoud gives the Panthers a proven backup behind Charles Godfrey – or a replacement if Godfrey is unable to return at full strength following the Achilles surgery that limited him to two games in 2013.
Godfrey, who has a $7.1 million salary cap charge this season, also is a candidate to have his contract restructured.
DeCoud was squeezed out in Atlanta in part due to the cap: He was scheduled to make $4.2 million this season.
DeCoud, a third-round pick from Cal in 2008, started for five seasons in Atlanta.
But he finished with a career-low 44 solo tackles last season and failed to make an interception for the first time since becoming a starter. DeCoud did score his first touchdown on a 30-yard fumble return against Tampa Bay.
“Thomas provides a veteran in the secondary who is familiar with the NFC South and has been a very solid player,” Panthers coach Ron Rivera said in a release. “We are pleased to add him to a safety group that has good experience and production.”
Meanwhile, Dickson started 14 games last season after the Ravens lost starting tight end Dennis Pitta to a hip injury for much of the year. Dickson had 25 receptions for 272 yards and one touchdown, and was plagued by several dropped passes at the beginning of the season.
But the former third-round pick from Oregon has shown he’s capable of being a consistent receiving threat. In 2011 during his second season, Dickson pulled down 54 passes for 528 yards and five touchdowns.
Dickson, who is 6-foot-4 and 244 pounds with good speed, will try to win the No. 2 job behind Greg Olsen, who is coming off the two most prolific receiving seasons by a tight end in Panthers history.
“Ed is a young player who has shown he is a capable blocker as well as receiver in the league,” Rivera said. “He provides experienced depth at the tight end position, and we look forward to having him in the mix.”
Despite his issues with drops last season, Dickson is known as a receiving tight end. In fact, the football analytics site Pro Football Focus ranked Dickson as the league’s worst blocking tight end in 2013.
The Panthers have other backup tight ends who can handle the blocking. They re-signed tight end/fullback Richie Brockel this offseason, and brought in free agent tight end Mike McNeill, who was a blocking specialist in St. Louis.
Ben Hartsock, another blocking tight end, is an unrestricted free agent.
The Panthers also have another former Oregon tight end on their roster in Brandon Williams, an undrafted free agent last year who played sparingly as a rookie.
The Panthers have not had a proven receiving tight end to complement Olsen since Jeremy Shockey retired. Olsen and Shockey combined for 82 catches and nine touchdowns in 2011, when then-rookie quarterback Cam Newton often looked their way.
The Panthers completely overhauled their receiving corps during the offseason, cutting franchise receiving leader Steve Smith and losing three other wideouts in free agency.
They have signed three free agent receivers, although none is a true No. 1 – Jerricho Cotchery, Jason Avant and Tiquan Underwood.
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