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Do Carolina Panthers have cap room to acquire wide receiver DeSean Jackson?

The Carolina Panthers were among the teams the Philadelphia Eagles informally reached out to in order to gauge their interest in a possible trade for wide receiver DeSean Jackson, a league source told the Observer.

After the Panthers’ receiving corps was gutted during the first week of free agency, they have an obvious need to restock the position. The Panthers signed former Steelers receiver Jerricho Cotchery to a two-year, $5 million deal Thursday, and on Friday agreed to terms with Tampa Bay free agent wideout Tiquan Underwood.

While neither Cotchery nor Underwood is a true No. 1 receiver, Jackson is a three-time Pro Bowler who ranked among the league leaders last season with 82 catches for 1,332 yards and nine touchdowns.

But with roughly $5 million in salary cap room, Carolina is not in position to take on Jackson’s contract, which calls for him to make $10.5 million this year.

There are moves the Panthers could make to create cap space, including getting a long-term deal done with defensive end Greg Hardy, who will make $13.1 million this year after having the franchise tag placed on him.

But there have been no indications the Panthers are close to signing Hardy to an extension.

The Panthers could restructure the contracts of defensive end Charles Johnson or safety Charles Godfrey, both of whom carry big cap numbers.

But even if Carolina came up with the space or Jackson agreed to a restructuring, the Panthers still might not be interested.

Steve Smith, the franchise’s all-time receiving leader and one of the team’s most popular players, was released last week in part because general manager Dave Gettleman viewed him as a distraction, sources said.

If the Panthers cut ties with Smith because of his big personality, they clearly would have misgivings about acquiring Jackson, whose has a diva reputation around the league.

New England, San Francisco and the Jets reportedly have shown interest in the 27-year-old Jackson.

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