- David Newton, ESPN Staff Writer
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In Godfrey's favor is a strong endorsement from the reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year.
"Charles Godfrey will be back," middle linebacker Luke Kuechly said last week when the team began offseason workouts. "A guy that has been very constant, is going to work hard, he's knows what's going on and I just generally enjoy being around Charles. So it will be good to have him back."
That, along with head coach Ron Rivera saying at the NFL owners meeting that Godfrey could maybe fill a void at nickel back in addition to playing safety, is evidence the Panthers want the six-year veteran coming off an Achilles injury.
Still, it's hard to imagine a team trying to get healthy under the salary cap going into the season counting Godfrey's $7.1 million and free agent signee Thomas DeCoud's $1,418,750 at the same position. Not when it can clear $5.1 million by releasing Godfrey with a June 1 designation.
Then you hear endorsements like the one Kuechly gave and you can't imagine the Panthers going into the season without Godfrey.
The good news for the Panthers is they don't have to make a decision for another month or so. They have $1,590,962 left under the cap to spend on rookies and undrafted free agents, and they can't really make a decision on Godfrey until he is cleared medically.
"He's been in there running around doing his thing, so we'll see how he is," Kuechly said. "I'm looking forward to getting him back out there."
That says a lot.
So does Kuechly's lack of concern about the secondary in general. When reminded it has been piece together with the additions of DeCoud, strong safety Roman Harper and cornerback Antoine Cason in much the same way it was a year ago with safeties Mike Mitchell, Quintin Mikell and cornerback Drayton Florence, he said, "it's definitely pieced together, but the pieces are pretty good."
And one of the pieces he values is Godfrey.
That's an endorsement that is hard to overlook.
Carolina Panthers free safety Charles Godfrey's value -- if he doesn't restructure a deal that counts $7.1 million toward the 2014 salary cap -- remains debatable.