Panthers ink free agents S Searcy, CB Cockrell and OG Sirles
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By STEVE REED
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) The Panthers have signed three potential starters in the second wave of free agency.
Carolina signed safety Da'Norris Searcy and cornerback Ross Cockrell to two-year contracts on Friday and guard Jeremiah Sirles to a one-year deal. The financial terms were not released, although Cockrell's agency Reign Sports Management announced on Twitter his deal was worth $6.8 million.
Searcy and Cockrell both have North Carolina ties and were teammates before with the Buffalo Bills in 2014. It didn't take them long to resume their trash talking with Searcy having played at North Carolina and Cockrell from rival Duke.
"There has been plenty of it already," Cockrell joked on a conference call Friday.
Added Searcy: "Oh yeah, it started when we got off the plane. We already played together and we carried that relationship over from Buffalo."
All three free agents fill vacancies left from last season and could start for the Panthers in 2018.
Searcy was brought in to compete for a starting safety position that opened up when the team released veteran Kurt Coleman.
Searcy is a seven-year NFL veteran who spent the past three seasons with the Titans after four seasons (2011-14) with the Bills. His most productive season came in 2014 when he had 65 tackles and three interceptions.
Searcy played in all 16 games last season for the Titans with six starts, recording 27 tackles, one quarterback pressure, one interception and two passes defensed. He also had six stops on special teams.
He lost his starting job last season, but said he still sees himself as a starter.
"Situations change," Searcy said. "I took it on the chin and still helped the team and played excellent when I was there. I will carry myself as a starter and let the chips fall where they may."
Cockrell, a four-year NFL veteran, is expected to compete for the starting cornerback spot created when Panthers general manager Marty Hurney traded away Daryl Worley to the Eagles for wide receiver Torrey Smith earlier this month.
"I am ready to come in and make plays on the ball," Cockrell said. That is what I do."
Cockrell played in all 16 regular season games with nine starts for the Giants last season and led the team with 11 passes defensed. He also had 49 tackles and a career-high three interceptions, including one he returned for a touchdown.
He was drafted in the fourth round in 2014 and has played in 53 career games with 31 starts over his four-year career. Since entering the league he has recorded 153 total tackles, 32 passes defensed and five interceptions.
It will be a homecoming for Cockrell, who grew up in the Charlotte area and played at Charlotte Latin High School.
"It's a great pleasure to come back and rekindle some family ties," Cockrell said. "This is great place to play football. We are not too far removed from a 15-1 season and a Super Bowl."
Sirles enters his fifth season, having spent the past three with the Vikings and will have a chance to compete for the starting guard spot vacated when All-Pro Andrew Norwell signed with the New York Giants.
Sirles has played in 30 career NFL games with 15 starts.
He played in 14 regular season games with four starts last season for the Vikings, with all four coming at left guard.
The 6-foot-6, 315-pound Sirles helped the Vikings rank seventh in the NFL in rushing yards with 122.3 yards per game. In his starts, Minnesota averaged 132 yards rushing yards per game, nearly 10 yards more than the season average.
He started a career-high 10 games while playing in 14 in 2016.
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Updated March 23, 2018