Panthers interested in Hackett, but not as Jarrett insurance

Darin GanttMarch 13, 2008 

CHARLOTTE -- On Wednesday, the Panthers arranged to bring free agent wide receiver D.J. Hackett in for a visit later this week. They would also like you to know it has nothing to do with wide receiver Dwayne Jarrett's drunken driving arrest on Tuesday.

While the timing makes it hard to not be skeptical, both sides insisted -- some in more forceful terms than others -- that one had nothing to do with the other.

"We're being as straight with Dwayne as we can be," a perturbed Panthers general manager Marty Hurney said. "But to connect those two would be false. We've been tracking him (Hackett) for more than a week."

Hackett's NFLPA-listed agent, Kevin Robinson, said Tuesday afternoon he hadn't had substantive conversations with the Panthers. Wednesday, he confirmed that the Seattle wideout would come here Friday after making trips to Washington and Tampa Bay -- an East Coast swing for the California native.

The Panthers were apparently talking to another agent who works in the same firm (Colorado-based Ascent Sports Management) about Hackett.

Robinson's partner Tom Mills, who represented early free agent pickup Tyler Brayton, said he was their point man in talks with the Panthers.

"They expressed an early interest in D.J., and asked me to keep them in the loop," Mills said. "When we started lining up trips out that way, we let them know, and they said they wanted to bring him in.

"All that happened before Jarrett got arrested, though. It sounds crazy, but it was a coincidental deal."

Jarrett's agent, Darin Morgan, said he didn't want to comment when asked if they perceived the move as a message by the Panthers. Hurney denied that, saying: "That's not the case at all."

Jarrett was arrested early Tuesday morning after running a red light at the intersection of Lawyers Road and Highway 51, and registering a 0.12 on his blood alcohol percentage test.

Regardless the status of last year's second-rounder, the Panthers are now in the running for a guy who could obviously help them if he could stay on the field.

The 6-foot-2, 208-pound Hackett has struggled with leg injuries during his Seahawks career, missing 31 games in four seasons. But he's been good when able, showing flashes of ability on a team which has been loaded at receiver in recent years.

If he came here, he'd be the favorite for the starting job opposite Steve Smith -- and that would have been true before Jarrett's arrest.

But the Panthers are competing with teams with either more money or sentimental ties. The Bucs have money burning holes in their pockets, while the Redskins have been strangely quiet. The thought in league circles is that Hackett will also carry his offers back to Seattle, giving his old team a chance to match.

• CARR TRIP: Restricted free agent cornerback Chris Carr visited the Panthers on Monday, though there was no word yet as to whether they'd sign him to an offer sheet.

Carr's agent didn't return phone messages, and Hurney wouldn't comment when asked if they planned to make an offer.

The 24-year-old Carr wouldn't cost the Panthers anything, since Oakland tendered him at the lowest level, and he entered the league as an undrafted free agent. The Raiders would have seven days to match any offer.

While he's played some defense, he's mostly a return man, averaging 24.1 yards on kickoffs and 5.9 on punts. He returned his only career interception 100 yards for a touchdown against Pittsburgh.

• THE SOUNDS OF SILENCE: Panthers backup middle linebacker Adam Seward, a restricted free agent, visited New England a week ago. But his agent said Wednesday he still hasn't heard anything from the Patriots.

"There's no new news," Michael Hoffman said. "I'll just defer all comments to the Patriots, though the visit went well and we remain optimistic."

If the Patriots signed Seward to an offer sheet and the Panthers chose not to match, Carolina would get a fifth-round pick as compensation. The Panthers probably wouldn't mind keeping Seward, if he didn't get an offer, though they gave themselves ample cover last week by signing Landon Johnson from Cincinnati. Johnson's here to compete for the starting weakside job, but has played the middle before and would likely be the best bet to move there if anything happened to Jon Beason.

• HAPPY TRAILS: A pair of former Panthers found new workplaces, with quarterback David Carr landing with the New York Giants and wide receiver Drew Carter heading to his spiritual home in Oakland.

Carr joins the Giants to compete for a backup job. Considering all they had behind Eli Manning was Anthony Wright and Jared Lorenzen, he could be a nice add. It helps Carr that his old Houston coach, Chris Palmer, is the Giants quarterbacks coach now.

Carter signing with the Raiders makes perfect sense, since they love speed at the receiver position above all else (including good hands). The Panthers made little effort to keep him, same as with Keary Colbert, who signed with Denver and will face Carter twice a year.

daringantt@carolina.rr.com

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