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Panthers land former Seahawks receiver Hackett with two-year deal

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Help is on the way for Steve Smith.

Determined to end the constant double teams of their star receiver, the Carolina Panthers came to terms Monday with Seattle free-agent D.J. Hackett on a two-year, $3.5 million deal.

Hackett is the second receiver the Panthers have added since missing the playoffs last season without a reliable second option after Smith. Muhsin Muhammad was signed last month.

The Seahawks had hoped to re-sign Hackett but have limited salary-cap space and a deep pool of receivers that includes Deion Branch, Bobby Engram and Nate Burleson.

Hackett was assured he'd be the No. 2 receiver in Carolina, said his agent, Kevin Robinson.

"The opportunity that they presented to him, he felt like it was a really good opportunity," Robinson said.

Hackett spent last week visiting Washington, Tampa Bay and Carolina, where he met with coach John Fox, general manager Marty Hurney and talked on the phone with Smith.

"He told me he had a great deal of respect for those guys," Robinson said.

The 26-year-old Hackett has been plagued by injuries in his four-year career with the Seahawks. He was limited to six games last season because of a lingering right ankle sprain, finishing with 32 catches for 384 yards and three touchdowns.

Hackett had six catches for 101 yards and a touchdown in Seattle's win over Washington in the NFC wild-card game. But he aggravated the ankle injury and wasn't at full strength a week later when he was held to two catches in Seattle's loss to Green Bay in the divisional playoffs.

Hackett was also placed on injured reserve as a rookie in 2004 with a hip injury.

At 6-foot-2 and 208 pounds, Hackett provides a big target to complement the small and speedy Smith.

Hackett and Muhammad give the Panthers options they didn't have last season.

The Panthers had hoped rookie Dwayne Jarrett would be their No. 2 receiver in 2007, releasing veteran Keyshawn Johnson three days after drafting Jarrett in the second round.

But Jarrett struggled to learn the playbook and never cracked the starting lineup. That left Keary Colbert and Drew Carter to split time, and they combined for a meager 70 catches. Tight end Jeff King was Carolina's second-leading receiver after Smith.

Colbert and Carter were not re-signed. The Panthers hope that Jarrett develops this season, but he was arrested last week and charged with driving while impaired. If convicted, Jarrett could face disciplinary action under the league's personal conduct policy.

Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press

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