Carolina Panthers notebook: Team keeping an eye on WR Greg Little

jperson@charlotteobserver.comMay 17, 2014 

The Carolina Panthers have discussed adding free agent wide receiver Greg Little but are not planning to sign him at this point, two teams sources said Saturday.

Little, the Durham native and former North Carolina standout, was released by the Cleveland Browns on Friday after three seasons marked by dropped passes and a series of traffic violations.

The Panthers turned over their entire receiving corps during the offseason, cutting Steve Smith and losing three other wideouts in free agency. But they’ve since signed veteran receivers Jerricho Cotchery, Tiquan Underwood and Jason Avant, and drafted ex-Florida State wideout Kelvin Benjamin in the first round.

The Panthers also want to evaluate young receivers Marvin McNutt and Tavarres King.

Little, 6 foot 2 and 215 pounds, was drafted in the second round by Cleveland in 2011 after he was suspended for the entire 2010 season at North Carolina for accepting impermissible benefits from an agent.

Little had 155 receptions for 1,821 yards and eight touchdowns in three seasons with the Browns, but also dropped 33 passes, according to Pro Football Focus.

Sizing up rookie receivers: Benjamin went up in traffic Saturday to snag a pass between two defensive backs in team drills during the final practice of the rookie minicamp.

Benjamin’s ability to pull down balls over smaller defensive backs is part of the reason they drafted the 6-foot-5, 240-pounder.

“The receiving position is changing, it’s morphing a little bit. Guys are coming in bigger,” Panthers coach Ron Rivera said. “We wanted to do that, and we saw an opportunity to draft Kelvin.”

The other intriguing receiver in the rookie camp was Philly Brown, an undrafted free agent from Ohio State who is only 5 foot 11 and 180 pounds.

Rivera thought Brown had a nice weekend.

“First of all, he’s a very smart football player and seemed to be picking things up very well. He made very limited mistakes,” Rivera said. “I like his route-running. He comes in and out of his breaks very well. He drops his hips very nicely and sinks them. He’s able to drive off of that cut leg. He did some really good things.”

Brown’s small stature might have kept him from getting drafted in this era of the big receiver. But Rivera believes he has enough quickness and strength to beat jam coverage at the line of scrimmage and create separation downfield.

Gaffney signs: Running back Tyler Gaffney, the sixth-round pick from Stanford, signed his contract Saturday before returning to school. All rookie deals are four years; terms of Gaffney’s contract were not disclosed.

Gaffney rushed for 1,709 yards and 21 touchdowns last season for the Cardinal after skipping the 2012 season to play minor-league baseball. With Stanford on the quarter system, Gaffney will miss the first two weeks of organized team activities before rejoining the Panthers in June.

Person: 704-358-5123; Twitter: @josephperson

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