Less than nine months after he announced his retirement, cornerback Cortland Finnegan has returned to the NFL. The Panthers announced today in a press release that they’ve signed Finnegan to a contract. The veteran free agent fills the roster spot vacated by long snapper Danny Aiken, who was cut on Friday.
Despite the fact that Finnegan said he was retiring back in March, the former seventh-round pick hired agent Drew Rosenhaus in the summer, and suggested he was open to an NFL return. At the time, Rosenhaus said that he was “working on teams” for Finnegan, who indicated a willingness to play either cornerback or safety. The 31-year-old has since auditioned for the Patriots and earned a look from the Panthers last week, along with free agents Bradley Fletcher and Robert McClain.
Carolina had been in the market for secondary depth after having played the last two games without cornerback Charles Tillman, who is expected to miss more time. It’s not clear if Finnegan will get a shot to play right away, but he’ll provide some veteran depth at a position where the undefeated Panthers have been a little short-handed.
Of course, for Finnegan to provide positive value, he’ll have to play better than he did in 2013, when he was one of the league’s worst cornerbacks, according to Pro Football Focus’ advanced metrics. PFF ranked Finnegan 109th out of 110 qualified corners, with a grade of -19.7 in just seven games.
The former Ram was a little better for the Dolphins in 2014, but still placed just 74th out of 108 corners, with a -4.4 grade in 2014, per PFF. Miami released Finnegan before free agency began this year, and the Samford product entered his brief retirement about a week later.