Baltimore Ravens

Free-agent safety Nakamura to sign with Panthers

On Friday morning, safety Haruki Nakamura became the latest Ravens free agent to sign elsewhere, agreeing to terms with the Carolina Panthers. He is the fourth of the team's 12 unrestricted free agents -- and the third member of a Ravens defense that ranked No. 2 overall in 2011 -- to depart.

Nakamura, a versatile defensive back whom the Ravens drafted in the sixth round in 2008, was a key contributor on special teams, a backup safety and at times was employed as a nickel cornerback against multiple-wide receiver sets. He played 56 games, all as a reserve, in his four seasons in Baltimore.

Nakamura, 25, played 15 games last season, making 12 tackles and breaking up a pair of passes.

He has said he wanted an opportunity to get more playing time, and he could get a chance to compete for a starting job with the Panthers, who ranked 24th in pass defense last season.

Ed Reed and Bernard Pollard are penciled in the Ravens' starting lineup in 2012, but there will be new backups behind them on the depth chart. Tom Zbikowski, drafted in the same year as Nakamura, is not expected to return either. The Ravens still have third-year defensive back Emanuel Cook as an option, but they will likely add a safety or two in free agency or next month's NFL draft.

The Carroll County Times first reported that Nakamura had signed with the Panthers.