CHARLOTTE – The Panthers are welcoming back a pair of players who have made significant contributions on defense and special teams in cornerback James Dockery and linebacker Jason Williams.
Dockery, who made a significant contribution to the secondary late in the 2012 season but was stymied by injuries in 2013, had become a free agent on March 12.
The Panthers originally signed Dockery midway through the 2012 season, and he made his first two NFL starts down the stretch as Carolina closed the season with five victories in six games. He figured to be in the mix for playing time last season, but a broken thumb suffered in the preseason opener slowed him before a shoulder injury ended his season after he saw action in five games – mostly on special teams.
The Oregon State product was one of three undrafted rookies to make the Cleveland Browns' opening day roster in 2011.
Williams, who became an unrestricted free agent on March 12, made one of the most significant special teams plays during the Panthers' special 2013 season. In a Week 15 game against the New York Jets, with Carolina clinging to a 16-13 lead, Williams broke through the middle of the Jets line and blocked a punt, setting the Panthers up 14 yards short of a touchdown that sparked a crucial 30-20 victory.
Williams hasn't recorded any defensive statistics over the past two seasons with the Panthers but had five special teams tackles each season while playing in 18 games. A third-round pick by the Dallas Cowboys in 2009 from Western Illinois, Williams played in 18 games with four starts over the 2010 and 2011 seasons, collecting 36 tackles. He also led the Panthers with 15 special teams tackles in 2011.