Harris trade adds veteran presence to Panthers' secondary

SPARTANBURG, S.C. -- Finally filling their need for another experienced safety, the Carolina Panthers on Thursday afternoon acquired two-year veteran Chris Harris from the Chicago Bears for a fifth-round choice in the 2008 draft.

"According to our scouts and coaches he's an instinctive player, and we feel he can come in here and compete," Panthers general manager Marty Hurney said.

Carolina has been deliberating much of the offseason over whether to add another experienced safety, and a Wednesday knee injury to second-year veteran Nate Salley may have prompted general manager Marty Hurney to make a move. The Panthers were already thin at the position before Salley was injured. Salley played in only eight games as a rookie in 2006, mostly on special teams, but was starting alongside Mike Minter in the secondary during the early days of training camp.

"You always hate to give up a draft pick, but we've said all along we would be looking at safeties, because it was a need position," said coach John Fox following Thursday afternoon's practice.

Salley did not practice Thursday and, while his injury is not believed to be serious, there is no definitive timetable for his return.

It is not yet known when Harris, the Bears' sixth-round pick in 2005, will arrive here to join his new teammates.

Minter was the team's lone veteran safety of consequence, and the 10-year veteran, who has played both safety spots during his career in Carolina, has already announced he will retire after this season.

The Panthers opted not to re-sign veteran Shaun Williams, who started with Minter in 2006, and lost Colin Branch in free agency.

Chicago has a surplus at safety, having acquired Adam Archuleta in a trade and gotten Mike Brown back to health, making Harris expendable. The Bears' coaches like Harris' aggressiveness, but felt he would not get much playing time now given the glut at the position.

"I think we're fortunate the Bears have a real surplus at that position," Hurney said. "Chris is a guy that we feel can come in here, compete and help us."

A former Louisiana-Monroe standout, Harris is solidly built (6 feet tall, 205 pounds), and a good hitter. He was fined $7,500 last December for what the league viewed as overaggressiveness in a game against Minnesota.

In 25 games, including 20 starts, Harris has 112 tackles, five interceptions, eight passes defensed, one sack and one fumble recovery.

Senior writer Len Pasquarelli covers the NFL for ESPN.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.