CHARLOTTE -- A day that began with the Carolina Panthers fretting over a quarterback's MRI ended with them trading for another one, just in case.
The news they got on Matt Moore's tests was all good, but they still swung a deal Friday evening for veteran backup Josh McCown. They sent a future draft pick to the Miami Dolphins for a guy they've tried to sign several times in the past. According to multiple league sources, the pick is next year's seventh-rounder.
McCown said Friday night -- as he packed his things for today's 6:30 a.m., flight to Charlotte -- that he was encouraged by the news.
"I'm not sure what they want me to do, and I'm not even sure what they gave up for me," he said with a laugh. "All I know is when they told me, I was excited, and I can't wait to get there and do the best I can for the Panthers."
The 29-year-old McCown is in his seventh year in the league, with stints in Arizona, Detroit and Oakland before the Dolphins signed him this offseason.
His career record is 12-19 (.387), not bad considering he's played for six teams with a combined record of 27-69 during his years there (.281).
The Panthers inquired about his services each of the last three offseasons, but looking for a starting job, he went to the Lions and Raiders, respectively, before landing in Miami's whirlwind this year.
"We've liked Josh for a long time," general manager Marty Hurney said. "He's got good intangibles, a strong arm and experience starting in the league."
In March, he signed a two-year, $6.25 million deal with the Dolphins that included a $2.5 million signing bonus. Then things started getting complicated, as the Dolphins used a second-round pick on Chad Henne, and then plucked Chad Pennington after the New York Jets released him in the post-Brett Favre hysteria.
"It was something where when they signed Pennington, after committing to Henne, I knew the reps were going to get tighter and the opportunities were getting shorter," McCown said. "I knew coming down the stretch something was going to have to give, so I'm thrilled that I was able to get to an organization like Carolina."
His career has taken some significant turns against the Panthers -- a mix of great highs and mysterious lows.
He said he fell in love with the area in 2002, when the Cardinals came here his rookie season, though he didn't play. The native of Jacksonville, Texas, (about 125 miles southeast of Dallas) said he felt more at ease in a quick weekend here than he did in the desert.
"Man, I'm from East Texas, with the tall pines and the hills, and Arizona was nothing but dirt and rocks," he said. "It reminded me of home."
His next trip wouldn't be so friendly, as then-Cards coach Denny Green benched him the night before the game at the team hotel in Charlotte.
He actually played one of his better statistical games in a loss to the Panthers in 2005. He threw for 398 yards and two touchdowns that day, with 274 yards and both touchdowns in the first half. That was a game cornerback Chris Gamble started on a bad ankle, and Ken Lucas asked coach John Fox at halftime to cover Larry Fitzgerald, shutting him down in the second half.
"It's always something with me and the Panthers," McCown said. "It's going to be fun to be on the other side of some of those games. I want to be the guy clinching division titles and going to the playoffs."
McCown has a career passer rating of 71.3, with 35 touchdowns and 40 interceptions. But he's also been sacked 93 times, and has never enjoyed much in the way of supporting casts at other stops.
"You can't pass up a chance at a starting job, but we can't bemoan the way this worked out," his agent, Mike McCartney, said. "I told Josh today he's been in seven training camps, and never has he hit his fifth step with time to throw and open receivers. That's no slight against other places he's been, he's just in a good situation now."
The Panthers will have him under contract for two seasons. He's owed $1.95 million this year and $1.7 million in 2009. They'll also be down to five draft picks next year, after having already given up next year's first in the draft-day deal with Philadelphia to get right tackle Jeff Otah.
Moore should be fine for next week's regular-season opener at San Diego, though they hope they don't need him. His tests Friday showed no structural damage from the hit in the left leg he took Thursday night in Pittsburgh.
The move for McCown is also expected to be the end of the line for quarterback Brett Basanez. The Panthers didn't get the transaction in before today's close of league business, which means Basanez will be among the 22 moves they have to make to get the to 53-man roster limit by 6 p.m.
One man's opinion
The Panthers will get to their final 53-man roster this afternoon (not that it will be the one they take to San Diego next weekend). Here's a prediction of how the cuts and moves could go. All this assumes them cutting QB Brett Basanez to make room for trade acquisition Josh McCown:
Reserve-suspended: WR Steve Smith (he won't count against the 53 until Week 3).
Released: QB Brett Basanez, RBs LaBrandon Toefield and DeCori Birmingham; FB Troy Fleming; WRs Travis Taylor, Chris Hannon, Dominique Thompson and William Buchanon; TE Chad Upshaw; OL Frank Omiyale, Evan Mathis, Rueben Riley, Geoff Schwartz and Mackenzy Bernardeau.
DE Hilee Taylor, DT Steve Williams, LB James Anderson and Tim Shaw; CBs C.J. Wilson and Darren Toney, S Nate Salley and Joe Fields.
That would leave the following 53 players on the regular-season roster:
QBs Jake Delhomme, Matt Moore and Josh McCown; RBs DeAngelo Williams Jonathan Stewart and Nick Goings; FB Brad Hoover; WRs Muhsin Muhammad, Dwayne Jarrett, D.J. Hackett, Ryne Robinson and Samie Parker (for now); TEs Jeff King, Dante Rosario and Gary Barnidge; OL Jordan Gross, Travelle Wharton, Ryan Kalil, Keydrick Vincent, Jeff Otah, Toniu Fonoti, Geoff Hangartner, Milford Brown and Jeremy Bridges.
DEs Julius Peppers, Tyler Brayton, Charles Johnson and Stanley McClover; DTs Maake Kemoeatu, Damione Lewis, Darwin Walker, Gary Gibson and Nick Hayden; LBs Thomas Davis, Jon Beason, Na'il Diggs, Adam Seward, Landon Johnson, Donte Curry and Dan Connor; CBs Ken Lucas, Chris Gamble, Richard Marshall, Ricardo Colclough and Dante Wesley, S Chris Harris, Charles Godfrey, Terrence Holt and Quinton Teal.
Ks John Kasay and Rhys Lloyd, P Jason Baker and LS Jason Kyle.
Notes: Even though Matt Moore's injury wasn't serious, trading for McCown gives them a veteran option behind Delhomme. This scenario also leaves them extremely thin at receiver the first two games. The extra roster spot for Lloyd has to come from the offense, or the special teams lose a core player. Parker's name is in that spot for now, but if they see the right name come across the wires tonight, they'll be more than willing to swap him out if they think they can upgrade.
• They better be sure Robinson's back before the end of the month if they keep a roster spot for him now. It's the same injury that knocked Nate Salley out all last year, when they waited until midway through to IR him. Waiting too long for Robinson to recover might cost them someone they don't want to lose (Shaw, one of the young receivers).
• I've got them keeping nine linemen on either side, and that's about as low as they can go. Omiyale (though it could be Fonoti) might have been the odd man out in this scenario, which allowed them to keep three quarterbacks.