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Ron Rivera: Panthers would 'be interested' in DeSean Jackson

By Ryan Wilson | CBSSports.com

More NFL offseason: Mock Drafts | Prospect Rankings | Top free agents

DeSean Jackson may be out of a job Friday afternoon, but don't expect it to last. Whatever off-field issues he may have, the former second-round pick is wildly talented and that, more than an alleged gang affiliation (Jackson promptly denied the report), means he'll be playing in the NFL in 2014.

And the Panthers, who let wideouts Steve Smith, Brandon LaFell, Ted Ginn and Domenik Hixon all walk during free agency, have gone on the record that they're intrigued by Jackson.

"We'd be interested," coach Ron Rivera told USAToday.com. "He's an intriguing player and we'll take a look at him. I just got word and this is surprising to hear. He's an explosive player who has great vertical speed and is strong going to the ball."

The Panthers have signed Jerricho Cotchery and Tiquan Underwood but are still in the market for a No. 1 pass catcher. Jackson, who ranked seventh among all NFL wide receivers last season, according to ProFootballFocus.com, certainly fits that description.

Jackson, who signed a new deal in 2012 and was set to earn $10.75 million in 2014, will likely make substantially less than that on his next "prove-it" deal, whether that's in Carolina or elsewhere.

"That is something that has to be discussed,'' Rivera conceded when talking about the Panthers' pursuit of Jackson, before adding: "It depends on the numbers. You have to negotiate around the numbers. We'll see what happens. It will be interesting to see what happens in the next couple of days.''

The Panthers have an obvious need at wide receiver. (USATSI)
The Panthers have an obvious need at wide receiver. (USATSI)

Meanwhile, two team sources told the Charlotte Observer's Joe Person that the Panthers are not intersted in Jackson, despite Rivera's comments to the contrary.

Whatever happens, Jackson's value could also be affected by the wide receiver draft class, considered the deepest in decades by many talent evaluators.

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