Panthers might target wide receiver in draft

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The Carolina Panthers say they would like to find a replacement for longtime No. 1 wide receiver Steve Smith in this year’s NFL Draft.

The big question is when they’ll do it.

The Panthers have the 28th overall pick, but the NFC South champions have a variety of needs after getting hit hard in free agency, and could go in a number of directions with their first-round choice.

General manager Dave Gettleman said recently that wide receiver, offensive tackle and cornerback are among the team’s top needs, but qualified that statement by adding he won’t got out of his way to land one. “When you reach for a position of need you’re in trouble,” he said.

Gettleman said he has some reservations about drafting a receiver in the first round because it often takes them longer to adjust to the NFL game than those who play other positions.

“History tells you that it’s a very difficult position to assimilate into (the NFL), especially with the current game being played at the college level,” Gettleman said.

BRONCOS: Signed fourth-year defensive tackle Marvin Austin, whose career has been beset by injuries since the New York Giants made him a second-round draft pick in 2011.

Austin (6-foot-2 and 312 pounds) has 10 career tackles.

EAGLES: Signed former Army ranger Alejandro Villanueva to a rookie free agent contract.

The 6-foot-9, 277-pound defensive lineman spent the past four years as an active member of the U.S. Army. He served three tours in Afghanistan and last played football as a wide receiver at Army in 2009.

FIESTA BOWL: Hired former Phoenix Coyotes CEO Mike Nealy as it executive director.

Her replaces Robert Shelton, who resigned in January after spending 2½ years trying to rebuild the bowl game in the wake of scandal. Shelton took over after John Junker resigned for taking part in an illegal campaign contribution scheme that ended with an eight-month federal prison sentence for him.

Nealy spent eight years as the Coyotes’ president and CEO, leading the franchise during a difficult four-year stretch without an owner.

He also worked as an executive with the Minnesota Wild for four years prior to joining the Coyotes.

AUBURN’S COLEMAN TO ANNOUNCE PICK

Auburn offensive tackle Shon Coleman will announce a first-round pick at the NFL Draft on Thursday.

The NFL said Monday that Coleman and his mother, De Keishia Tunstall, will join Commissioner Roger Goodell on stage at Radio City Music Hall in New York for a selection.

Robinson was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia shortly after signing with the Tigers in 2010.

He got on the field for the first time against Arkansas State last season.

Coleman, who graduated recently, is a third-year sophomore. He’s vying to replace Greg Robinson at left tackle.

Robinson is projected as a likely top-5 draft pick while Auburn defensive end Dee Ford also could be selected in the first round.

– Associated Press

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Brandon Barden

Brandon Barden, the former Lincoln County player, is on the roster of the Jacksonville Jags.

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