Panthers sign Davis, allowing him to retire

Darin GanttFebruary 26, 2008 

CHARLOTTE — The Carolina Panthers have agreed to sign the big back they need, though he won’t help them this year. They also finalized at least five deals Monday, but none of them happened to be with the receiver everyone’s hyperventilating over.

The Panthers are expected to sign Stephen Davis to a deal which will allow the Spartanburg native to retire with his hometown team.

Also Monday, the Panthers completed contract restructurings with cornerback Ken Lucas and defensive tackle Maake Kemoeatu, gave the low restricted free agent tender of $927,000 to offensive lineman Evan Mathis, and signed a pair of exclusive rights free agents, running back Alex Haynes and safety C.J. Wilson, to one-year deals.

Muhsin Muhammad, however, remains an ex-Panther, though his agent has talked with his original team about bringing him back and there’s a chance something happens soon.

Muhammad has made clear his desire to return to his old home (where he kept a residence during his three years with Chicago), but so far, it’s unclear if the Panthers share his great enthusiasm. A team official indicated Monday that nothing was imminent, and if something was going to happen, it would likely be after coach John Fox and general manager Marty Hurney returned from the scouting combine later this week. But he does fit a need, and they have spoken about numbers, so it’s reasonable that a deal could get done quickly.

It’s hardly the news Panthers fans have been hoping for, since the website profootballtalk.com reported Sunday the team was “close” to re-signing Muhammad. Since then, the message boards and talk radio airwaves have buzzed about the possibility of his coming back.

The biggest question regarding his return is where he’d fit, as the team has high hopes for young Dwayne Jarrett, which could cast Muhammad in the role once played by Ricky Proehl during Muhammad’s first run here. He’ll turn 35 in May, and coming off a 40-catch season, it’s hard to imagine Muhammad providing the kind of deterrent to keep opponents from constantly doubling Steve Smith.

As for the big-name running back, Davis’ agent confirmed the deal with the Panthers Monday night, acknowledging that he’d retire this week. The Panthers have done similar deals in the past, such as with Steve Beuerlein, in order to honor their beloved veterans.

Davis has been out of the league since 2006, when he played for St. Louis. But what he did here will keep him in the hearts of Panthers fans forever.

Signed in 2003, all he did was carry them to the Super Bowl, gaining 1,444 yards and giving the team the kind of runner they’ve looked for ever since.

The deals with Lucas and Kemoeatu cleared over $1 million worth of salary cap room. Mathis getting the low tender, which would net them a third-round pick in the unlikely event someone signed him away, was no surprise. The Panthers are expected to do the same with fellow RFAs Geoff Hangartner and Adam Seward before Thursday’s deadline. Haynes and Wilson were formalities, since they couldn’t negotiate with other teams. Also Monday, just-cut running back DeShaun Foster was closing in on a deal with San Francisco.

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