With news breaking that the Carolina Panthers are unlikely to re-sign James Bradberry, the team can now focus on bringing back Tre Boston.
Over the weekend, news leaked that cornerback James Bradberry is seeking approximately $15 million per year in his next contract–far more than the Carolina Panthers reportedly are willing to offer the 26-year-old. Since being drafted in 2016, Bradberry has developed into one of the better corners in the league, and much more often than not has held his own despite being in a division with Julio Jones, Michael Thomas, and Mike Evans.
Allowing Bradberry to walk would open up yet another hole in the Carolina defense and would only increase the uncertainty surrounding the secondary. His likely departure, though, does increase the odds that the team will bring back safety Tre Boston. In his first year back with Carolina, Boston played well for most of the season, and would be a valuable piece in the Panthers’ secondary moving forward. He will be 28 by the time the 2020 season kicks off, but a three or four-year deal at the right price could be a win for both sides.
In his first season back in a Panthers uniform, Boston graded well in every metric in what was one of his best seasons as a pro.
Despite getting a bad wrap by some fans, Boston proved to be a bargain in his first year back in Carolina. After spending his first three seasons with the Panthers, he left for one-year stints with the Chargers and Cardinals in 2017 and 2018. Prior to training camp this past season, he came back to Carolina on a one-year deal worth $3 million. Boston posted a career-high 11 passes defensed in 2019, and also tied for the team lead in interceptions. It’s also worth noting that he started all 16 games for the first time in his career. The only real weakness the veteran safety has is his tackling. He did miss an inexcusable 16% of attempted tackles this past year.
Looking past the traditional stats and into the advanced metrics, and Boston’s value is even more apparent. Opponents completed just 61% of passes when targeting Boston in 2019, throwing for only two touchdowns all season, and posting a measly 74.1 passer rating when throwing at the now seventh-year player. According to Pro Football Focus, Boston was the 13th ranked safety out of 86, and was graded higher than Earl Thomas and Tyrann Mathieu–two of the highest-paid safeties in the league. Specifically in pass coverage, he ranked fourth-best at his position. There’s no denying that Boston gave a much-needed boost to a bad defense in 2019, and with Bradberry seemingly on his way out, the Panthers can’t afford to let Boston go too.
While the Panthers reportedly won’t get into a “bidding war” for Boston, they shouldn’t be afraid to pay him his worth.
Despite the defensive rebuild and Boston’s suspect tackling, Carolina shouldn’t be hesitant to give Boston the money he deserves. As a borderline top-10 safety in the league, Boston will undoubtedly be seeking a multi-year deal this offseason, likely in the range of $8-12 million per year. That’s a good bit cheaper than they would get Bradberry back for, and if Boston can continue to be a reliable option in the secondary, then he’s worth every bit of that money–especially considering safety is a position where the Panthers have recently struggled to find much consistency.
Carolina is currently slated to have $34.6 million in cap room for the upcoming season, and when they presumably decline Dontari Poe’s option, that number will shoot up to approximately $44 million. Releasing backup running back Mike Davis prior to June 1st would free up an addition $3 million as well. With all that being said, the Panthers will have the financial means to lock Boston up. The only question is whether or not new head coach Matt Rhule is willing to give him such an expensive commitment. With the news of Bradberry likely to walk, though, he would be wise to keep a talent and a leader like Boston in the fold.