Cole return keeps starting front seven intact

The Carolina Panthers will have back the entire starting front seven of the defense that ranked second in the NFL in 2013.

The last missing link was 33-year-old defensive tackle Colin Cole, who according to an ESPN.com source, has agreed to a one-year deal.

Cole started 13 games last season beside rookie tackle Star Lotulelei. They were part of a rotation with Dwan Edwards and Kawann Short that was key to Carolina ranking second in the league against the run.

The rest of the starting front seven includes ends Greg Hardy and Charles Johnson, and linebackers Luke Kuechly, Thomas Davis and Chase Blackburn.

Several key backups also will return in linebacker A.J. Klein, end Mario Addison and end Frank Alexander.

The secondary remains a work in progress with free-agent signee Roman Harper expected to start at strong safety, but no other position is guaranteed.

The free safety spot could go to Charles Godfrey, who is coming off an Achilles injury, second-year player Robert Lester or a free agent yet to be signed. The Panthers had Atlanta free agent Thomas DeCoud in for a visit on Monday.

Free-agent signee Antoine Cason is expected to compete for one cornerback spot. Melvin White, who started 11 games as an undrafted rookie last season, will compete for the other.