Hackett decision could come today

Darin GanttMarch 17, 2008 

CHARLOTTE -- A day after leaving Charlotte, the agents for free-agent wide receiver D.J. Hackett began negotiating a contract with the Carolina Panthers, and a final decision on his future employer is expected as soon as this morning.

According to league sources with knowledge of the situation, Hackett's representatives exchanged numbers with Panthers salary cap manager Rob Rogers on Sunday, indicating a level of interest in coming to the Queen City that was previously underestimated. What's not known is who else he's in contract talks with, as a number of teams have shown sufficient interest.

The prevailing thought throughout the league was that Hackett was using his East Coast swing through Washington, Tampa Bay and Charlotte as a chance to drive up the price for the Seahawks. The 26-year-old wide receiver has told his original team he'd keep them in the loop, but he was apparently swayed by what he heard and saw from the Panthers over the weekend.

If he comes to Charlotte, Hackett would likely take the lead for the second starting receiver job. During his stay, he talked about that role with Steve Smith, the guy who the Panthers have been looking to help for three years now.

The 6-foot-2, 208-pound Hackett has shown flashes of great play-making ability, but he's also been tormented by injuries, missing 31 games in four seasons. Still, his size and potential are what attracted the Panthers, even before 2007 second-rounder Dwayne Jarrett was busted for drunken driving last week.

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