- David Newton, ESPN Staff Writer
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A few observations that could impact the Carolina Panthers as teams began talking to representatives of free agents from other NFL teams on Saturday:
New York Giants wide receiver Hakeem Nicks is willing to consider a one-year deal to prove he's better than his statistics have shown the past two seasons, according to ESPN's Chris Mortensen. Nicks still probably will cost more than the Panthers are willing to pay with only about $7 million left under the cap. But what better place to start over than in the city where you were born.
Nicks attended Charlotte's (N.C.) Independence High School. At 26, he still has a lot of good years ahead of him. And don't forget Carolina general manager Dave Gettleman has a history with him as the former director of pro personnel for the Giants.
That Nicks is expected to have several options with Denver and Baltimore among teams that could be interested will only drive up the price.
Wide receiver Sidney Rice, recently released by the Seattle Seahawks, was back in the Carolinas judging from this Saturday tweet: "Back home for 15 hours and I've seen 1 thousand Gamecock fans. Lovin it! #gamecocknation."
Rice is from Gaffney, S.C., about an hour from Charlotte. He played at the University of South Carolina, about 90 miles from Charlotte.
Like Nicks, he's looking for a fresh start. He missed most of last season with an ACL injury, but according to several reports he should be fully recovered to begin training with his new team in April.
At 6-foot-4 and 202 pounds, the 27-year-old still can be dynamic when healthy. The Panthers need dynamic. The problem is he has trouble staying healthy, which could make him a bargain.
Both are drawing interest from other teams, Mitchell in particular.
Don't be surprised if Carolina takes the same approach with them that it did with cornerback Captain Munnerlyn a year ago in letting him test the market to set the price.
Munnerlyn, who turned down a three-year deal worth $5 million to test the market, eventually settled on a one-year deal to return to Carolina.
Gettleman appears willing to play that game again. Keeping Mitchell, judging from early interest, could be difficult.