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Friday, March 21, 2014
You need search engine to find these guys

By David Newton

SEARCH: NFL free agent wide receivers and cornerbacks that will play for pennies on the million dollars. Funky hairdos, inexperience and unimpressive statistics not a factor.

Google has become my best friend as the Carolina Panthers continue their Dollar General trip through free agency.

Sometimes you wonder if general manager Dave Gettleman needs a search engine to get the lowdown on some of his prospects. It reminds me of the line from "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance" kid as they try to avoid a mystery posse.

Antoine Cason
Cornerback Antoine Cason is among the latest free agents to visit Carolina.
"Who are those guys?" Butch, otherwise known as Paul Newman, repeatedly asked.

Today's shopping list of "those guys" includes Tampa Bay free agent wide receiver Tiquan Underwood, Arizona cornerback Antoine Cason and Texans wide receiver Lestar Jean.

All three, which you would have to say fall into the bargain-basement category, began their visits on Thursday.

And bargain-basement isn't meant as an insult. Free safety Mike Mitchell had done little to nothing before the Panthers signed him from Oakland last season, and he had arguably a Pro Bowl season. Wide receiver Ted Ginn Jr. caught two passes in 2012 at San Francisco and he had five touchdown catches for Carolina in 2013.

Both went on to sign lucrative deals with other teams in free agency this season.

Underwood, Cason or Jean could be next.

Underwood is known more for his stacked hairdo than catching passes. In five seasons with three teams (Jacksonville, New England and Tampa Bay) he has 63 catches, or one less than former Carolina receiver Steve Smith had during a down year in 2013.

Last season was somewhat of a breakout year as he caught 24 passes for 440 yards and four touchdowns.

At 6-foot-1 and 183 pounds out of Rutgers, he's probably no better than a third or fourth receiver, perhaps a special teams player. But the Panthers, who don't have their top four wide receivers from last season, need those type of players.

Cason's name you might recognize. He was a first-round pick in 2008 by the San Diego Chargers. He worked with Carolina coach Ron Rivera and secondary coach Steve Wilks when both were with the Chargers.

He started 45 games for the Chargers between 2010 and 2012. He has 14 career interceptions. He just got lost in the shuffle last season at Arizona, making him expendable after a 14-tackle season.

The Panthers began talking to his former agent at the NFL combine. Cason recently fired that agent and hired the more high-profile Drew Rosenhaus, which is why his visit to Charlotte was delayed by a day or so.

At 6-1 and 195 pounds, Cason could be the bigger cornerback the Panthers have been looking for to replace Captain Munneryln, who signed with Minnesota.

Jean you definitely need a search engine for. In two seasons with the Texans he has 10 catches, which on paper makes him a perfect fit for the Carolina receiving corps outside of Thursday free-agent signee Jerricho Cotchery.

He's a big target at 6-3 and 202 pounds.

And like the others, he won't cost a lot.

If the "Price is Right," I can see two or maybe all three becoming Panthers.