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Monday, February 18, 2008

Combine Upcoming: Importance; Muhammad Available

Besides the obvious - the scouting, the meetings, and the agent tampering - that goes on at the combine, it's also where Panthers staff will be all week.

What's that mean? Besides the point Darin Gantt brought up in his blog - that the team, unable to touch Alge Crumpler before today, will be out of town and can't medically clear him (which keeps them from putting out an offer early this week) - is that most likely other free agent deals will be on hold.

So, while guys like Mike Rucker and Brad Hoover, eager to make something happen before Feb. 29th, will still have time. But Jordan Gross won't. The Panthers have to tag Gross as their franchise player (or, in a twist, could name him transition player and save money, but at higher risk) by the 21st, and it's unlikely a deal will happen during combine. So, the team may as well tag Gross now. After combine, the team will try to put together cheap deals for Hoover, Rucker (assumedly, anyway), and will also focus on Crumpler.

Muhsin Muhammad Available
Remember Carolina's first real receiver, Muhsin Muhammad? It's hard not to; he made the pro bowl in two different decades, the only Panther other than Michael Bates and Wesley Walls to do so; he's still the team's career receptions, yards, receiving TDs*, and 100-yd games leader, though Steve Smith is catching him fast.

And, he was cut by Chicago. So, what's he been doing since his last Pro Bowl?

He led the team to a playoff berth in 2005, and a Super Bowl in 2006. He played with current Panther Chris Harris, and former Panther Ricky Manning, Jr. More importantly - he had 64 receptions, 750 yards, and 4 TD in 2005; he had 60 receptions, 863 yd, 5 TD in 2006; in 2007, his stats took a slide, going down to 40 receptions, 570 yards, 3 TD.

So, does he have anything left? His yards/catch haven't gone down, but his receptions did; Bernard Berrian had 30 more catches, to become the leading receiver, and outlets took away others. RB Adrian Peterson took 2nd place on the team, Desmond Clark 3rd from TE: 2nd TE and first round pick Greg Olson was 5th, behind Muhammad.

He hasn't had injuries, he still makes the tough catches, he's still a leader on the field and in the locker room; he's an ideal guy to mentor the very-simiarly-talented Dwayne Jarrett. The only thing to watch - how much time he has left, and how much it could take away from Steve Smith. MM is ideal for SS in that he's taken the 2nd spot for Smith before; however, since Muhammad's exit, Smith's become a captain. Another veteran receiver, like Marty Booker or Ernest Wilford, can be a strong supporting player without being that past captain. Still, it's a minor concern, and Muhammad looks to have at least a few years left.

*Smith is actually the team's career scoring champion for non-kickers - with 45 TDs, rushing, receiving, and returning, he beats Muhammad and Walls, who each had 44 receiving; Muhammad had also caught 2 2-pt conversions.
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