Manning wants chance to start

The Panthers gave restricted free agent Ricky Manning Jr. the low tender offer on Thursday, raising the possibility the team's 2003 NFC playoff star could play elsewhere next season.

Instead of giving Manning the higher tender offer of $1.552 million for the 2006 season, which would have forced another team to give up a first-round pick to get him, the team decided to go with the lower tender offer of $712,000, which only requires a third-round pick as compensation for signing him.

Manning's agent, Jim Ivler, said he was surprised by the move, but not necessarily upset.

"If they had placed the higher tender on him, I don't think anyone would have given up a first-round pick," Ivler said. "But now we'll have to wait and see. There's a little bit of a door for Ricky. I wouldn't say I'm happy or not happy. Yeah, it would have been nice to earn $1.5 million, but now Ricky also has a chance to earn more money if he's signed to an offer sheet."

Manning, who lost his starting job to Ken Lucas last season, has said he'd like to be a starter again. Ivler is hoping another team will look at his client's past experience and offer him a long-term contract.

In any event, the Panthers would have seven days to decide whether or not to match an offer sheet signed by Manning.

Manning earned his way into the hearts of Carolina fans with an impressive 2003 postseason, including a big interception of Marc Bulger in the NFC divisional playoffs against the St. Louis Rams and three picks against Donovan McNabb is Carolina's NFC Championship Game win over the Philadelphia Eagles week later.

Carolina's other four restricted free agents - defensive tackle Kindal Moorehead, safety Colin Branch, tight end Mike Seidman and linebacker Vinny Ciurciu - also received the low tenders of $712,000.

If the Panthers were to lose Seidman, they would get a third-round pick as compensation. They'd get a fourth-rounder for Branch, a fifth-rounder for Moorehead but nothing for Ciurciu, who was undrafted.

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