Colbert's knee injury latest in decline during tenure with Panthers

Updated: December 22, 2007, 11:19 AM ET
By Len Pasquarelli | ESPN.com

A knee injury that sidelined Keary Colbert for the past two weeks has prematurely ended his season, and likely the former starting wide receiver's four-year tenure with the Carolina Panthers as well.

Colbert, 25, has been placed on injured reserve, and his roster spot filled for Saturday night's game against Dallas by practice squad wide receiver Jason Carter. But because he is in the final season of his original rookie contract, Colbert is eligible for unrestricted free agency in the spring, and his return to the Panthers is unlikely.

The Panthers probably will look for other options as they continue to seek a complementary wide receiver to team with Steve Smith, and they are hoping to get more from second-round pick Dwayne Jarrett, who has had a disappointing rookie season. At the same time, it's believed Colbert will look for a fresh start elsewhere.

The former USC standout had a strong debut in 2004, establishing franchise rookie records with 47 receptions for 754 yards and five touchdowns. Colbert started 15 games that year, moving into the lineup after Smith suffered a season-ending broken leg in the opening contest.

But in ensuing seasons, Colbert's performance never came close to that of his rookie season. In fact, in the next three years, he averaged just 20.7 catches and 223.3 yards, and scored only two touchdowns.

In 2005, Colbert earned the starting job opposite Smith, but his numbers fell off, and he had only 25 receptions for 282 yards and two touchdowns. The following season, Colbert posted just five catches. This year, in 12 games, he had 32 receptions for 332 yards, but no touchdowns.

Colbert does not have great deep speed, but does possess decent short-range quickness and size. He will have to overcome some inconsistencies in catching the ball, but could develop into a productive No. 3 receiver.

A second-round pick in 2004, Colbert appeared in 55 games in four seasons with the Panthers and had 109 receptions for 1,424 yards and seven touchdowns.

Len Pasquarelli covers the NFL for ESPN.com.