Carolina Panthers

Panthers close in on signing Moose

CHARLOTTE -- After sitting in a holding pattern for more than a week, the Carolina Panthers made significant headway Tuesday on a deal for wide receiver Muhsin Muhammad, putting them extremely close to a reunion.

"We're talking," Panthers general manager Marty Hurney said. "We've got some interest in bringing him back, he's interested in coming back and we have to see if we can work something out.

"Hopefully, we can."

For the guarded Hurney to use such a word as "hopefully" means the deal's all but done. Muhammad's desire to come back to Charlotte helped drive the near-agreement as well.

He kept his home in Charlotte through his three-year stay with Chicago, and made it clear since being released by the Bears on Feb. 18 it was his choice of destinations.

Now, the Panthers have to figure out how to use the veteran wideout, who'll turn 35 in May. Their preference would likely be to use him in a Ricky Proehl-style role, since they still have high hopes for 2007 second-rounder Dwayne Jarrett.

Muhammad had his best years with the Panthers in 1999 and 2004, both resulting in big contracts. The second one came from the Bears, who gave him a six-year, $30 million pact hours after he was released by the Panthers in a pre-arranged move.

His production slumped along with the rest of the Bears' offense, and he caught just 40 passes last year.

He'll benefit the Panthers in other areas, since he was known as a physical blocker and a steadying influence on teammate Steve Smith.

The Panthers also finished up dealing with their own restricted free agents, placing the mid-level tender of $1.47 million on offensive lineman Geoff Hangartner and the low tender of $927,000 on linebacker Adam Seward.

They went with the higher number on Hangartner to make sure they kept him, since there might have been some interest in a proven starter. But by placing the second-round tender on Hangartner, they all but assured he'd be back.