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Monday, March 17, 2008
Panthers agree to two-year deal with WR Hackett

ESPN.com news services

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Help is on the way for Steve Smith.

Determined to end the constant double-teams of their star receiver, the Carolina Panthers came to terms Monday with Seattle free agent D.J. Hackett on a two-year, $3.5 million deal.

D.J. Hackett

Hackett

Hackett is the second receiver the Panthers have added since missing the playoffs last season without a reliable second option after Smith. Muhsin Muhammad was signed last month.

Keary Colbert and Drew Carter, who shared the starting spot opposite Smith last season, were not re-signed after combining for a meager 70 catches.

"We feel like we should have a very competitive atmosphere at that position," general manager Marty Hurney said. "We feel like we have improved the talent level."

The Seahawks had hoped to re-sign Hackett but have limited salary-cap space and a deep pool of receivers that includes Deion Branch, Bobby Engram and Nate Burleson.

Hackett was assured he'd be the No. 2 receiver in Carolina, said his agent, Kevin Robinson.

"The opportunity that they presented to him, he felt like it was a really good opportunity," Robinson said.

Hackett spent last week visiting Washington -- he had a minimum salary offer from the Redskins -- Tampa Bay and Carolina, where he met with Hurney, coach John Fox and talked on the phone with Smith.

"He has the ability to make plays and has been productive," Hurney said. "We think he is a very good fit for us."

The 26-year-old Hackett has been plagued by injuries in his four-year career with the Seahawks. He was limited to six games last season because of a lingering right ankle sprain, finishing with 32 catches for 384 yards and three touchdowns.

Hackett had six catches for 101 yards and a touchdown in Seattle's win over Washington in the NFC wild-card game. But he aggravated the ankle injury and wasn't at full strength a week later when he was held to two catches in Seattle's loss to Green Bay in the divisional playoffs.

Hackett was also placed on injured reserve as a rookie in 2004 with a hip injury.

At 6-foot-2 and 208 pounds, Hackett provides a big target to complement the small and speedy Smith.

Hackett and Muhammad give the Panthers options they didn't have last season.

The Panthers had hoped rookie Dwayne Jarrett would be their No. 2 receiver in 2007, releasing veteran Keyshawn Johnson three days after drafting Jarrett in the second round.

But Jarrett struggled to learn the playbook and never cracked the starting lineup.

The Panthers hope that Jarrett develops this season, but he was arrested last week and charged with driving while impaired. If convicted, Jarrett could face disciplinary action under the league's personal conduct policy.

Hurney said the two events -- Jarrett's arrest and the signing of Hackett -- were not related.

"Not at all," Hurney said. "We've been talking to his people for the last few weeks."

Information from The Associated Press and ESPN.com's John Clayton was used in this report.