Panthers, Walker can't get together

Darin GanttMarch 8, 2008 

CHARLOTTE -- They needed someone like him. He wanted desperately to play for them.

Yet money kept the Panthers and defensive tackle Darwin Walker apart.

The former Chicago and Philadelphia interior rusher visited the Panthers earlier this week, and seemed like a natural fit, given their need for more help in the middle of their defensive line. Adding to that he's a native of Walterboro and wanted to get back closer to home only made it more appealing to him.

"I think Darwin Walker and the Carolina Panthers would have been a great marriage," agent Albert Irby said. "They just didn't want to go down the aisle."

In many ways, the 30-year-old Walker's exactly what the Panthers needed, after trading Kris Jenkins and watching backup Kindal Moorehead go to Atlanta. He has 28.5 sacks in seven years in the league, showing most of his burst with the Eagles. He managed just one sacks last year with the Bears, as he battled elbow and knee injuries.

But Irby said he passed his physical with the Panthers, and was only looking for a one-year deal, in order to reaffirm his status. The Bears signed him to a five-year, $25 million contract upon acquiring him in a trade last year, but they chose not to pick up a $5.2 million option this spring, making him a free agent. His actual take from the Bears was closer to $2 million.

"It would have been a great fit, I'm really at a loss," Irby said. "We were only looking for a one-year deal, because he knows he has to establish himself again.

"I don't know what happened, we just couldn't agree. But I know he wanted to play for the Carolina Panthers, and he'd have been great for them."

Panthers general manager Marty Hurney would only acknowledge that Walker had visited, choosing not to comment any further.

• DISPELLING RUMORS: One thing Hurney stepped out of character to do Friday was debunk the rumors that the team was trying to trade defensive end Julius Peppers.

There have been rumors passed around message boards in recent days, but they gained steam Friday.

Even though he's coming off his worst season, and he's counting more than $15 million against the salary cap in the last year of his rookie deal, the Panthers braintrust hasn't changed its mind about its first first-rounder.

"We are not trying to trade Julius Peppers," Hurney said. "There's nothing to it."

• EXTRA POINTS: Former Panthers linebacker Dan Morgan signed his one-year contract with New Orleans on Friday. He had visited Detroit also, but chose to join his old friend from Miami Jonathan Vilma, who the Saints acquired in a trade. The Saints apparently want to use Morgan on the weakside and Vilma in the middle. If they can stay well, it drastically improves a defense that's seemingly always struggled at the second level. ...

There was still no word on restricted free agent Adam Seward's trip to New England.

The Boston Herald, citing a source close to Seward, reported that the visit went well and he expected an offer soon. The Panthers would have seven days to match, and if they didn't, they'd receive a fifth-round pick as compensation. However, no news came Friday from the Patriots. ...

The Panthers released cornerback Patrick Dendy, a guy who wasn't going to make the team, anyway. Dendy was the third-level injury replacement last year, who only rolled in after Dante Wesley and Curtis Deloatch were lost for the season with injuries.

daringantt@carolina.rr.com

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