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Market continues to dwindle for receivers

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Bob Levey - Getty Images
Sidney Rice, left, the former South Carolina standout, is 6-foot-4 and would be a big target for Panthers quarterback Cam Newton, who still has a tendency to overshoot his receivers.

Pittsburgh Steelers free-agent receiver Jerricho Cotchery was expected to arrive in Charlotte on Monday evening and begin meeting with the Panthers.

Cotchery will have a lot more leverage than he did when he set up the visit.

Former Green Bay Packers wideout James Jones – who had talked to the Panthers – agreed to a three-year deal with Oakland on Monday, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported.

Jones made a public pitch for Carolina on Sunday, telling ESPN’s Josina Anderson he wanted to come to Charlotte and play with Cam Newton. It looks like it might have been a negotiating ploy.

Meanwhile, the free-agent receiving market continues to dwindle – troubling news for a Panthers team that lost its top four wideouts from 2013.

Besides Cotchery, 31, who caught a career-high 10 touchdowns last season, the list of available wideouts includes Sidney Rice, Santonio Holmes, Miles Austin, Kenny Britt and Jacoby Ford.

A league source said the Panthers have shown interest in Britt, who is scheduled to visit the Redskins after previous stops at St. Louis and New England. Britt, 25, could be a value signing after an abysmal 2013.

But the Panthers traditionally have avoided players with a history of off-the-field issues such as Britt, who has been arrested eight times since joining the NFL as Tennessee’s first-round pick in 2009.

Another receiver to keep an eye on is San Francisco free-agent Mario Manningham, who is familiar with Panthers general manager Dave Gettleman from their time together with the Giants.

Despite coming off two disappointing seasons with the 49ers, there apparently still is a market for Manningham, 27. He was scheduled to visit with the Giants on Monday, according to Schefter.

Cotchery, a 10-year veteran, has had preliminary talks with the Steelers and drawn interest from a couple of other teams, according to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

Cotchery is not a No. 1 receiver at this point in his career. While he became a favorite red-zone target of Ben Roethlisberger last season, Cotchery averaged only 37.6 receiving yards per game.

But at 6-foot-1 and 200 pounds, Cotchery is a physical receiver with good hands who took advantage of mismatches in the slot with the Steelers.

The events of last week left the Panthers without a receiver who caught a pass during 2013.

Carolina cut franchise all-time receiving leader Steve Smith, and watched Brandon LaFell, Ted Ginn Jr. and Domenik Hixon bolt in free agency.

Most of the top free-agent receivers have been commanding three-year deals. Smith’s contract with Baltimore is worth $11 million over three years. LaFell reportedly received a similar, three-year deal from New England.

One exception was the one-year, $3.5 million contract Indianapolis gave former Giants receiver Hakeem Nicks, another free-agent wideout who had talked with the Panthers.

Addressing other needs

Prior to Cotchery’s visit, the Panthers hosted St. Louis Rams free-agent safety Darian Stewart on Monday. Stewart, a former South Carolina standout who has one career interception, was not offered a contract by the Panthers, another league source said.

The Panthers have added former New Orleans strong safety Roman Harper, who agreed to a two-year deal Saturday. The deal hasn’t been announced because Harper has yet to sign the contract.

The Panthers made a couple of minor moves Monday to address their special teams and secondary depth.

Backup linebacker Jason Williams and reserve cornerback James Dockery re-signed on one-year deals. Terms were not disclosed.

Williams, an unrestricted free agent, has spent most of the past four seasons with Carolina after the Panthers claimed him off waivers from Dallas in 2010. Williams’ 28 special teams tackles during that span are second on the team behind Jordan Senn, who signed with Chicago last week.

Williams, 27, who blocked a punt against the Jets last season to set up a touchdown, said he texted Senn after he signed with the Bears.

“I guess that’s kind of a given that me and Jordan were the leaders of the (special teams) unit last year,” Williams said during a phone interview. “It’s good to have at least one of us back.”

Dockery, 25, was set to become a restricted free agent but was not tendered by the Panthers. He has played in 12 games with two starts in parts of two seasons in Carolina. He missed all but five games during 2013 with thumb and shoulder injuries.

Person: 704-358-5123; Twitter: @josephperson
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