Panthers trade S Harris to Bears for LB Williams
AP Sports Writer
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) – The Carolina Panthers traded starting strong safety Chris Harris to the Chicago Bears on Tuesday, continuing their offseason roster overhaul.
The Panthers got reserve linebacker Jamar Williams in the deal, while Harris returns to Chicago less than three years after he was traded to Carolina.
Harris was deemed expendable after he struggled some in 2009 and Carolina added depth at safety.
“Chris is going back to an organization where he has familiarity and we wish him the very best,” Panthers general manager Marty Hurney said in a statement. “He has done everything we have asked and has been a valuable member of our team. Right now we have some young safeties who will get the opportunity to continue to earn playing time.”
Harris joins starters Jake Delhomme, Brad Hoover, Muhsin Muhammad, Damione Lewis, Maake Kemoeatu and Na’il Diggs who have moved on because of Carolina’s youth movement. The Panthers also let Pro Bowl defensive end Julius Peppers leave in free agency.
The 25-year-old Williams has played in all 16 games in each of the past three seasons with the Bears, and had a career-high 43 tackles last season. But he hadn’t been able to win a starting job with Lance Briggs in front of him and was a restricted free agent.
“Jamar is a versatile linebacker who brings experience, athletic ability and can help on special teams as well as compete for time at linebacker,” Hurney said.
After missing the first three games with a knee injury and then getting off to a slow start, the hard-hitting Harris had 44 tackles and three interceptions last season. He had 80 tackles a year earlier, and led the NFL and set a franchise record with eight forced fumbles in his first season with Carolina in 2007.
Harris turned out to be a bargain for the Panthers. They sent a fifth-round pick to the Bears in training camp to get him after numerous injuries and Mike Minter’s retirement left them with almost no depth at safety.
Harris immediately became a starter and was second on the team with 102 tackles in 2007. But after three seasons and being one of the leaders in the locker room, he was sent as Carolina sheds veterans and payroll after going 8-8 last season.
Besides young safeties Charles Godfrey and Sherrod Martin, the Panthers selected Jordan Pugh of Texas A&M in the sixth round of last weekend’s draft. Carolina also recently signed Aaron Francisco, who is mostly a special teams player but has played safety.
The 27-year-old Harris, who played at Louisiana-Monroe, was Chicago’s sixth-round pick in 2005. He had three interceptions as a rookie, and intercepted Indianapolis’ Peyton Manning in the Super Bowl a year later.
Now he’s headed back to Chicago and will be reunited with Peppers, who signed with the Bears after spending his first eight seasons in Carolina.
The Bears also announced Tuesday they will not renew the contract of director of college scouting Greg Gabriel.