The Panthers need a No. 1 wide receiver.
There’s a good young wideout now on the market following the Philadelphia Eagles’ decision to release DeSean Jackson Friday.
But contrary to what Carolina Panthers coach Ron Rivera told USA Today, the Panthers do not have interest in signing Jackson, two team sources said.
Philadelphia released Jackson, 27, after NJ.com reported that Jackson has ties to two gang members in Los Angeles who have been connected to a pair of homicides.
Jackson released a statement Friday stating he has never been a member of a gang. But there is heightened concern among NFL teams over possible gang activity among players in the wake of the murder investigation involving former New England tight end Aaron Hernandez.
NJ.com also reported the Eagles had concerns about Jackson’s attitude, his inconsistent work ethic, missed meetings and a lack of chemistry with coach Chip Kelly.
The Panthers have a void at wideout after releasing Steve Smith, the franchise’s all-time receiving leader. Jackson is coming off his most productive season, in which he posted career highs with 82 receptions for 1,332 yards and nine touchdowns.
“We’d be interested. He’s an intriguing player and we’ll take a look at him,” Rivera told USA Today. “I just got word and this is surprising to hear. He’s an explosive player who has great vertical speed and is strong going to the ball.”
But according to the sources, the Panthers made the determination they weren’t interested in Jackson even before he was cut.
The Observer reported last week that the Panthers were among teams contacted by Philadelphia to try to gauge possible trade interest in Jackson.
Carolina was an obvious potential trade target. In addition to cutting Smith, the Panthers lost three other receivers in free agency when Brandon LaFell, Ted Ginn Jr. and Domenik Hixon went elsewhere.
Gettleman cut Smith in part because he viewed him as a distraction and didn’t want him to negatively impact the team’s young receivers, according to sources.
The Panthers signed free agent receivers Jerricho Cotchery and Tiquan Underwood last week, and are expected to take at least one wideout in a receiver-rich draft.
Cotchery and Underwood were praised by former coaches at the league meetings this week for their character.
“He’s not low-maintenance,” Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin said of Cotchery, the former Steelers receiver. “He’s no-maintenance.”
Gettleman said Cotchery and Underwood were brought in at least in part because of their reputations as good locker room guys.
“We have created a winning culture downstairs and we want to keep that, and improve upon it. And that was important. That’s part of it. It’s part of the decision all the time,” Gettleman said at the meetings in Orlando. “Because very frankly, you have to count on the guy showing up everyday and working hard everyday. If you can’t count on that, what’s the point?”