Carolina free-agent rankings: No. 4

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- No. 4 in my ranking and evaluation of the 21 Carolina Panthers scheduled to become unrestricted free agents is a player that finished the 2013 season on the sideline with a foot injury.

Strong safety Quintin Mikell.

This may be a bit high considering his age (33). He falls into the category of a player who won't cost a lot, but will be valuable in terms of veteran leadership with 11 seasons under his belt.

To rehash the rankings so far:

  • No. 21 quarterback Jimmy Clausen, No. 20 wide receiver Brandon LaFell, No. 19 cornerback Drayton Florence, No. 18 guard Geoff Hangartner, No. 17 linebacker Dan Connor, No. 16 linebacker Jason Williams, No. 15 tackle Bruce Campbell, No. 14 cornerback James Dockery, No. 13 defensive tackle Colin Cole, No. 12 guard Travelle Wharton, No. 11 linebacker Jordan Senn, No. 10 quarterback Derek Anderson, No. 9 cornerback Captain Munnerlyn, No. 8 wide receiver Domenik Hixon, No. 7 wide receiver Ted Ginn Jr., No. 6 tight end Ben Hartsock and No. 5 place-kicker Graham Gano. On to No 4:Quintin Mikell: We saw how valuable he was in the NFC playoff loss to San Francisco. Sidelined with a foot injury in the third quarter, 49ers wide receiver Anquan Boldin broke free for a 45-yard catch when backup safety Robert Lester didn't roll into coverage. That turned into a touchdown two plays later that for all practical purposes ended Carolina's season. My guess is Mikell would sign another one-year deal for a low price. With him the Panthers have security in case Lester or another young safety they bring in doesn't develop. Much could depend on what happens with free safety Charles Godfrey, who missed most of the season with an Achilles injury. If he doesn't restructure his contract to drop his cap figure well below the $7.1 he is scheduled to count the Panthers may have to cut him to free up cap space. If the Panthers decide to keep Godfrey and re-sign Mike Mitchell, who moved from strong to free safety when Godfrey was injured, that could make things dicey as far as Mikell. But Mitchell and Mikell worked well together, so as the saying goes, if it ain't broke don't fix it.