Carter eyeing big payday?

Drew Carter could be on the verge of a big pay day -- or not. Much of that will depend on whether Carter, a receiver with uncommon speed for a man his size (6-3), is able to nail down the Panthers' No. 2 receiver spot opposite Steve Smith.

The Panthers feel like if Carter can improve his route running, add a few pounds and become a more consistent cog in the offense the sky is the limit. Last year he had 28 receptions for 357 yards and three touchdowns while splitting time as the No. 3 receiver. He brings a big-play ability to the team because of his speed.

Carter, now in his fourth season, is entering his contract year with the Panthers meaning he'll become an unrestricted free agent after the season.

So, a big season could mean a big paycheck.

Of course, Carter has stiff competition for that starting spot.

Although the team released Keyshawn Johnson earlier this year, they drafted Dwayne Jarrett, a Johnson clone from the same college, in the second round to replace him.

Carter has worked with the first team in both minicamps ahead of Jarrett and enters training camp as the starter. That could change. Jarrett made three fantastic catches during the June minicamp and has big-time potential.

However, most rookie receivers tend to struggle in the NFL (New Orleans' Marques Colston was a notable exception in 2006) and the Panthers may elect not to throw him into the starting lineup right away.

But how would a Smith-Carter alignment mesh?

"And I think Smitty is a possession receiver just as much as he is a speed receiver," Carter said, referring to Smith's 100-plus catch season two years ago. "So I'm out there trying to help him out. He gets a lot of double coverage and I'm trying to take the pressure off his back."

Carter knows this is a big season for him personally.

"It is a huge year, but I can't take it as that. I have to go out and work hard," Carter said. "Hopefully things will work out and I will be here. I love being here. But we'll see. But right now I hope to make a big year out of it and hope for the best."

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