Godfrey softens blow of losing FS Mitchell

Losing free safety Mike Mitchell to the Pittsburgh Steelers on Tuesday was a big loss for the Carolina Panthers.

Mitchell brought a lot of fire and aggressiveness to the league's second-ranked defense last season. The Panthers wanted him back, but were willing to risk him testing the market in hopes of getting him at a price that would work under their salary-cap restrictions.

That didn't happen as Mitchell got a five-year, $25-millon deal, according to ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter.

Fortunately, Carolina had a backup plan that included a starter.

Charles Godfrey is on target to return from an Achilles injury that ended his 2013 season in the second game. The seventh-year player out of Iowa was the starter at free safety before his injury allowed Mitchell to move there from strong safety.

Depending on what Carolina does in free agency and the draft, Godfrey could be paired with Robert Lester, who last season started four games at strong safety as an undrafted rookie.

The Panthers also could look at bringing back free agent Quintin Mikell, who played 14 games at strong safety this past season.

Regardless, losing Mitchell didn't leave the cupboard bare. Godfrey has 74 career starts and 11 interceptions. He was so impressive after posting five interceptions and 84 tackles in 2010 that Carolina signed him to a five-year, $27.5 million extension.

There has been speculation with Mitchell's strong play that Carolina would either cut Godfrey after June 1 to save about $5.1 million under the salary cap or get him to renegotiate his deal. A renegotiation remains a possibility as Godfrey is to count $7.1 million against the cap.

But with Mitchell gone, Godfrey's immediate future with Carolina is secure.