Carolina Panthers

Panthers looking to bolster defense

CHARLOTTE -- After taking care of their offensive tackles before free agency began, the Carolina Panthers began churning their counterparts on the other side of the ball once the signing period began.

They moved closer to making Kris Jenkins a former Panther by way of a trade, and are checking out his potential replacement today when they have former Oakland and Atlanta star Rod Coleman in for a visit and a physical.

Panthers general manager Marty Hurney wouldn't discuss the possibility of a trade, saying only: "I'm not going to comment on Kris; he's on our roster right now."

The Panthers would like to move him before they have to pay a $1 million roster bonus next week, though that might be pushed back if necessary to facilitate the deal. Jenkins' agent, Tony Paige, did not return phone or e-mail messages Thursday.

That Jenkins is being shopped is no secret, the destination's all that remains unclear.

The New York Jets and Miami showed the most interest in him initially, and both teams have a significant need at his position. While the Jets are also shopping linebacker Jonathan Vilma, he's not expected to be part of any package moving this way if the trade is completed with the Jets.

Trades can't be announced until today, coinciding with the start of the free agent period at 12:01 a.m.

"No midnight announcements for us," Hurney said Thursday evening.

That left the Panthers steering clear of the premier free agents initially -- notably the defensive ends that they so sorely need.

But if they land Coleman, they might fix their pass-rush from the inside out.

The 31-year-old has been one of the league's top interior rushers, with 58.5 sacks in his nine seasons. Of that sum, 38.5 came during a four-year stretch (2002-05) between the Raiders and Falcons, but he had just 2.0 last season.

Of course, that was largely because of the injury problems that limited him to five games -- and it was no garden-variety injury, either.

Last April, Coleman tore his right quadriceps during a personal watercraft accident near his Lake Lanier home. He needed a pair of surgeries to fix the problem and the subsequent setback, and was also hampered by knee, triceps and pectoral problems once he came back.

He was one of seven players released by the Falcons on Feb. 15, and the Panthers hoped to make contact with him then. But a paperwork snafu on the Falcons' part and the President's Day holiday kept him out of the pool of available players until Feb. 19, by which time more teams showed interest.

He visited Tampa Bay on Thursday, and his agent Pat Dye was negotiating with the Buccaneers even as Coleman headed to Charlotte.

The Panthers were able to keep two of their own backups/special teamers Thursday before the start of the market, agreeing to two-year deals with cornerback Dante Wesley and linebacker Donte Curry.

When the market opened, nine of their own players became unrestricted free agents: Wide receivers Drew Carter and Keary Colbert, tight end Christian Fauria, defensive linemen Mike Rucker and Kindal Moorehead, linebacker Terrence Melton, cornerback Curtis Deloatch and safeties Deke Cooper and Marquand Manuel.

Of the lot, they've offered contracts to Hoover (who signed with the team late Thursday night) and Melton. They've also had talks with the agents for Cooper and Moorehead about coming back.