The Panthers’ passing game makeover could extend beyond the receiving corps.
Free agent tight end Ed Dickson, who had a 50-catch season in Baltimore in 2011, is visiting the Panthers on Thursday.
If he passes his physical and things go well in his meetings with team officials, Dickson could leave with a contract and give the Panthers another pass-catching tight end to complement starter Greg Olsen.
Olsen posted the two most prolific, pass-catching seasons by a Panthers tight end the past two seasons, pulling down 73 passes last season and 69 in 2012. After Gary Barnidge left for Cleveland last offseason, the Panthers were left with Olsen, a couple of blocking specialists (Ben Hartsock, Richie Brockel) and a project (Brandon Williams) at the position.
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The Panthers relied heavily on a two-tight end system during quarterback Cam Newton’s rookie season in 2011, when Olsen (45 catches) and Jeremy Shockey (37) combined for 82 receptions and nine touchdowns.
Dickson, 26, was the Ravens’ third-round pick in 2010. Dickson left Oregon with the most catches (124) and receiving yards (1,557) by a tight end in school history.
During his second NFL season, Dickson finished third on Baltimore’s team with 54 receptions, including a 10-catch game against Seattle that tied for the third-most catches in franchise history.
But Dickson was unable to match that production the past two seasons, when he averaged 23 catches. He managed only 25 receptions for 273 yards last season, despite Ravens starting tight end Dennis Pitta being limited to four games with a hip injury.
Dickson, who is 6-4 and 244 pounds, is young and would provide Newton with another big target. And like recently acquired wide receivers Jerricho Cotchery and Jason Avant, he has playoff experience.
Dickson tallied 10 catches in eight postseason games with Baltimore. He caught two passes for 37 yards in the Ravens’ Super Bowl victory against San Francisco last year.
Panthers preseason schedule released
The Panthers will play an all-AFC slate in this year’s preseason.
Carolina will host Buffalo and Kansas City while traveling to New England and Pittsburgh in August.
Only one date is set: Carolina will host the Chiefs at 8 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 17 in a nationally televised game on FOX during the second week of the preseason.
Carolina will host Buffalo between Aug. 8-10. The team will travel to New England to face the Patriots between Aug. 22-24.
The third exhibition is the one in which teams typically play their starters the longest, and a game against the Patriots should be a good barometer for the 2014 Panthers. Last year, Ron Rivera opted to keep Cam Newton in the game through three quarters against the Ravens in the third exhibition.
The Panthers will wrap up the preseason with a trip to Pittsburgh between Aug. 28-30. Typically, the NFL schedules the final exhibitions on Thursday night.
Carolina and Pittsburgh will meet in the final exhibition for the 12th consecutive time, and the two squads face each other again in the regular season when Pittsburgh comes to Charlotte.
An NFL spokesman said on Twitter earlier Wednesday there is no timetable yet for the release of the regular-season schedule. In the past, the schedule has been released in late April.