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Panthers sign ex-49ers safety Eric Reid to 1-year deal

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Eric Reid finally found a home.

The Carolina Panthers announced Thursday morning they've signed the safety, who joined Colin Kaepernick in kneeling during the national anthem in 2016 to protest social injustice and racial inequality.

The one-year deal has a base value of $1 million and can be worth up to $1.9 million, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported. It includes play-time incentives, Pro Bowl incentives and per-game roster bonuses.

The free agent had gone unsigned throughout the offseason and into the start of the regular season despite a solid season playing multiple roles in San Francisco last year.

The Panthers needed safety help after starter Da'Norris Searcy went on injured reserve before Week 3 with a concussion. Carolina's safeties struggled last week against the Cincinnati Bengals. Backup Colin Jones got the start, and the team turned to rookie Rashaan Gaulden during the win.

"Eric has been a starting safety in the NFL and has played at a high level throughout his career," general manager Marty Hurney said in a statement. "After we put Da'Norris Searcy on injured reserve, Ron [Rivera] and I discussed our options, and Eric was at the top of our list. He is a physical safety with good ball skills and play-making ability."

Adding a veteran of Reid's caliber during the season should provide a needed coverage ability and versatility on the Panthers' back end. The 26-year-old played at least 100 defensive snaps at safety, slot cornerback, off-ball linebacker and edge with the 49ers last season, per Pro Football Focus. For his career, Reid has started 69 regular season games played, earning 375 tackles, 10 interceptions, 34 passes defended, and two forced fumbles. He earned Pro Bowl honors his rookie season.

NFL Network's Jim Trotter reported the 49ers had expressed interest in bringing Reid back on a multi-year deal. In addition, the Seattle Seahawks offered Reid a one-year deal in August prior to Earl Thomas returning, a source informed of the situation told Trotter.

Reid joined Kaepernick in filing a grievance against the NFL alleging collusion against players who protested during the national anthem. Reid's place in the collusion lawsuit remains unchanged despite the signing, Rapoport reported.

Kaepernick offered his support for Reid in an Instagram post Thursday.

"Congratulations to my brother @e_reid35, an all pro safety who should have been signed the first day of free agency, who has signed a football contract," Kaepernick wrote. "He was the FIRST person to kneel alongside me. Eric is a social justice warrior, continues to support his wife, two beautiful daughters and communities in need."

Panthers new owner David Tepper has gone on record defending the patriotism of NFL players.

"These are some of the most patriotic people and best people. These are great young men," Tepper told CNBC on Sept. 13. "So to say that [they aren't patriotic] makes me so aggravated and angry. It's just wrong, it's dead wrong."

Reid also has allies within the Panthers locker room. Receiver Torrey Smith lobbied for Carolina to sign Reid earlier this week.

"Eric Reid is a Pro-Bowl caliber safety, 26 years old with a first-round pedigree," Smith said, per the Charlotte Observer. "And he's one of the best men that I know. I know that teams obviously have to be interested in him, and honestly, with our injuries I hope he ends up here.

"I know how he is, his talent. If it's something where [general manager Marty Hurney or Rivera] come and talk to me about him, I'll be glad to talk about him as a player and as a person. He's one of the best men that I've been around. I hope that's something that can happen for us, because I know with the injuries that we have he could help this team."

The Panthers brass agreed with Smith's assessment.

Miami Dolphins wide receiver Kenny Stills echoed Smith's sentiments.

"I'm just happy for him. Excited to see him get out there on the field and be the impact player we all know he is," Stills told NFL Network's Mike Garafolo. "Obviously I feel he should've been signed the first day of free agency. It's a long time coming. I'm excited for him. I can't wait to see him ball."

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