In their quest to assemble the right ingredients to win a Super Bowl, the Carolina Panthers might have found the Key.
That's wide receiver Keyshawn Johnson, who the Panthers believe might be enough to boost their offense to the next level. Johnson and the Panthers agreed to terms on a contract late Thursday night after meeting for much of the day. The deal is for four years and includes $5 million in signing bonus money.
A press conference to officially announce the signing is expected on Friday.
Johnson seemingly would help solve one of last season's biggest problems. Wide receiver Steve Smith led the league in catches and receiving yards, but the Panthers had few other offensive weapons. Johnson could change that dramatically.
Although Smith, who lobbied Johnson to sign with the Panthers, will remain the No.1 receiver, there's likely to be much more diversity in the passing game. Keary Colbert, last year's other starting receiver, had 25 catches and is likely to compete for the third receiver spot.
"I think the biggest thing is Keyshawn's a proven winner," quarterback Jake Delhomme said from his offseason home in Breaux Bridge, La. "I know (offensive coordinator Dan) Henning has some familiarity with him from when they were together in New York. Steve Smith and I talked (Thursday) for a little while and Smitty has no problem with this, he's all for whatever makes us better. Keyshawn's a proven winner, a veteran who knows how to work hard and a big target for me as a quarterback."
Pairing Johnson with Smith could give the Panthers one of the NFL's top receiving tandems.
Although Johnson will turn 34 in July, he remained productive, catching 71 passes for Dallas last season. Known throughout his career as an excellent possession receiver, Johnson could take defensive pressure away from Smith. He also is known as a strong blocker, and that's something the Panthers have been missing since Muhsin Muhammad left.
Despite the obvious talents of Johnson, who was the first overall pick by the New York Jets in the 1996 draft, he also has been controversial at times. Johnson, who spent his first four years with the Jets, often was vocal when he felt he wasn't getting enough passes thrown his way.
Johnson was traded to Tampa Bay in 2000 and had three very productive years. But Johnson and Bucs coach Jon Gruden clashed in 2003. That led to a suspension and Johnson's departure to Dallas in 2004.
With the Cowboys, Johnson was reunited with former Jets coach Bill Parcells and all went well for two seasons. But the Cowboys released Johnson, in part to create salary cap room to sign Terrell Owens.
The Panthers apparently believe Johnson won't be a disruptive force. Johnson has a big advocate in Henning, who held the same job with the Jets under Parcells. Delhomme said he wasn't worried about Johnson's past problems.
"Sometimes things get caught on camera; emotions are high on Sundays," Delhomme said. "Arguments happen with us too and you don't see it. I think if he was a problem, Bill Parcells would not have signed him back. I think we're doing what's right for the club."