Muhammad is in contract year with Carolina

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Marvin Harrison's new $66 million contract could lead to a big payday for Carolina receiver Muhsin Muhammad. It just might not be with the Panthers.

Muhammad has been on a six-week tear for the Panthers (5-7), pulling in 40 catches and eight touchdowns.

He's already scored a career-best 10 TDs this season, and his 63 catches has him on pace for his best season since 2000, when he tied Harrison for the NFL lead with 102 catches.

It's perfect timing for Muhammad, who is in a contract year with Carolina. Harrison helped his cause Wednesday by agreeing to a six-year, $66 million extension with the Indianapolis Colts.

"I don't know how much of an influence Marv's contract is going to have with mine," Muhammad said Thursday. "But every time a receiver signs a big deal, I think it raises the bar for everybody underneath them."

That means more money for Muhammad, but it isn't likely to come from the Panthers, at least under his current contract.

Muhammad is due a $10 million roster bonus in March as part of a restructure he agreed to in September when the Panthers were salary cap-strapped because of a rash of injured players and needed to free up money to sign replacements.

The deal also added another year to his contract, but neither side is likely to exercise it.

And aside from the bonus, Muhammad has a $12 million-plus salary cap number next season -- way too much money for a 31-year-old receiver on a team that also has game-breaker Steve Smith and rookie Keary Colbert.

But his current hot streak means Muhammad is likely going to want big money from someone. Even though he's been with the Panthers for all nine of his NFL seasons, he acknowledged Thursday that money could prevent him from ending his career in Carolina.

"The nature of this business is volatile, so you have to be ready to move on and be ready to accept the nature of this business," he said.

For now, the Panthers need every catch they can get out of Muhammad.

With Smith out for the year with a broken leg, it's fallen on him to loft the Panthers back into the playoff hunt.

He started Carolina's current four-game winning streak in San Francisco on Nov. 14 with six catches for 123 yards and three touchdowns. And he was outstanding last week in New Orleans with 10 catches for 179 yards and one score.

"When a guy's on fire, you want to get him the football," quarterback Jake Delhomme said. "He's playing with a lot of confidence, I think that's the biggest thing. Moose is really playing well."