Shockey’s future up in the air

jperson@charlotteobserver.com March 26, 2012 

— Drew Rosenhaus said he is still in talks with the Panthers about veteran tight end Jeremy Shockey, although Rosenhaus believes Shockey likely will land elsewhere.

Rosenhaus, the well-known agent who represents Shockey, said he plans to talk with several teams this week at the NFL owners meetings about Shockey, who is an unrestricted free agent after spending last season with the Panthers.

“The door’s still open (with the Panthers). We’re still talking,” Rosenhaus said Monday at the Breakers Resort. “But I think it’s more likely that he would be on another team this year.”

Shockey, who will turn 32 before the season begins, caught a career-low 37 passes in 2011 after signing a 1-year deal worth $4 million after New Orleans cut him. But he stayed healthy and was praised for giving the Panthers a good locker room presence.

“He’s a proven winner. He’s got a great personality and leadership,” Rosenhaus said. “We’re looking forward to him finding a team, maybe even while I’m here.”

The Panthers are believed to be interested in bringing Shockey back, but at a reduced salary.

“You can’t discount the value Jeremy brought to the team. We’ll see,” Panthers coach Ron Rivera said. “We’re still going through the process. It’s still early. Anything can happen.”

Rosenhaus, who represents Carolina linebacker Jon Beason and several other Panthers, said he plans to meet with Panthers general manager Marty Hurney this week about Shockey and some of his other clients who are free agents.

“The Panthers are one of my favorite teams to deal with. I really like working with Marty. I’ll go through it with him,” Rosenhaus said. “I don’t know how aggressive they’re going to be going forward in free agency. But I’ve got a few guys I want to talk to him about.”

PANTHERS ADD COMP PICK: The Panthers were awarded a sixth-round compensatory pick, giving them seven total in next month’s draft. The Panthers signed two free agents last year, defensive tackle Ron Edwards and kicker Olindo Mare, and lost three – quarterback Matt Moore, tight end Jeff King and cornerback Richard Marshall.

As a result, they gained the final pick in the sixth round and No. 207 overall. The Panthers will have two sixth-round picks, but none in the third: They traded their third-round selection last summer to acquire tight end Greg Olsen.

DODGING A BULLET: Cam Newton, one of four quarterbacks targeted in New Orleans’ bounty scheme, drew three personal foul penalties against the Saints last season, but escaped injury. That left his coach relieved. "I’m just glad nothing bad happened. I really am,” Rivera said of his reaction to the news the Saints had placed a bounty on Newton.

The league handed down unprecedented penalties against the Saints last week, including a season-long suspension of coach Sean Payton. Player suspensions are expected to be announced soon.

But Rivera is not ready to bury the Saints in the NFC South.

“I don’t know if it shakes up the division because the players are still there and they’ve got a system intact. They’ve got a lot of veteran guys who have run their system for a long time,” Rivera said. “I think the biggest thing and the bottom line is the commissioner did what he believed was right, protecting the integrity and the safety of the players.”

TOLBERT TALK: Rivera shakes his head when he hears talk about the Panthers having three tailbacks with last week’s signing of free agent Mike Tolbert. Rivera, who was with Tolbert in San Diego, said tailback was not Tolbert’s role with the Chargers – and won’t be with Carolina.

“Look at the system and look at what he’s done the last four years,” Rivera said. “When we saw he was available, one of the first things we talked about is, ‘Hey, here’s a guy who can play fullback in the system.’ ”

The Panthers used a number of fullbacks last year, including Richie Brockel and Jerome Felton. Olsen and Shockey lined up a few times, as well.

Said Rivera: “We didn’t have that guy who runs the fullback belly, the fullback trap that gives you all those different options.”

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