The Carolina Panthers signed free agent wideout Stephen Hill to their practice squad on Tuesday, a day after they worked out the former second-round pick of the New York Jets.
Panthers coach Ron Rivera indicated Monday the team didn’t plan to sign Hill immediately.
But the Panthers must think Hill, who struggled with dropped passes throughout his two-year tenure in New York, could potentially give them a deep threat they’ve lacked since Ted Ginn Jr. signed with Arizona during the offseason.
To make room for Hill on the practice squad, the Panthers released former Appalachian State linebacker D.J. Smith.
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Hill was the Jets’ second-round pick in 2012, a former Georgia Tech standout with good size (6-4) and speed (timed at 4.36 seconds in the 40 at the combine).
But he was waived Saturday during the Jets’ final roster cuts after two mostly disappointing seasons.
According to Pro Football Focus, Hill caught 37.5 percent of the passes thrown in his direction in 2013, which ranked 100th among 111 wideouts. As arookie, Hill was 102nd out of 105 receivers with a catch percentage of 45.7, according to the football analytics site.
Hill finished with 45 receptions for 594 yards and four touchdowns over 23 games with the Jets. He’s another piece for a Panthers’ receiving group that was completely overhauled during the offseason, when Steve Smith was released and three other wideouts left via free agency.
Hill also has a tie to Panthers receivers coach Ricky Proehl. Hill’s agent, Alan Herman, represented Proehl during Proehl’s playing career.
Herman told the Observer on Saturday Proehl could “do wonders” with Hill.
Hill, 23, is two months younger than Kelvin Benjamin, the Panthers’ first-round pick who was the clear No. 1 wideout during the preseason.
Veterans Jason Avant and Jerricho Cotchery are possession receivers, and there is concern among some in the organization that Benjamin will face a barrage of double coverage without another fast wideout to stretch the field.
The Panthers signed Tiquan Underwood with that in mind during the offseason. But Underwood was released during the first round of cuts after an inconsistent showing at OTAs and training camp.