Panthers Tackle Offensive Line Aggressively

RealFootball365.comSenior Writer IFebruary 17, 2008

After re-signing Travelle Wharton, it looks like the Carolina Panthers will have both tackles back next season, because Jordan Gross will be franchised if he isn't re-signed.

Just a couple of days after cutting linebacker Dan Morgan and guard Mike Wahle to gain salary-cap space, the Panthers cemented a deal with Travelle Wharton that will keep the left tackle in Carolina for the next six years.

The deal reportedly is worth $36 million, with $12 million in bonuses and $19 million due to Wharton over the first three years.

That takes care of one tackle. And the franchise tag should take care of the other if the team can't get a deal done with Jordan Gross by Thursday.

The Panthers would prefer to sign their former first-round pick to a long-term deal, as they just did with Wharton, but if they can't by Thursday, they certainly will slap the $7.45 million franchise tender on Gross.

It was a busy week for the Panthers, who also re-signed defensive tackle Damione Lewis and safety Chris Harris as they try to keep their most productive defenders in place. They still have decisions to make on some of their defensive linemen, particularly Mike Rucker.

But the offensive line looks like it will remain in good shape. While the team had to let Wahle go so it could keep its tackles, Carolina has several young linemen who could take Wahle's spot at left guard. Ryan Kalil, Carolina's second-round pick in 2007, is ready to play, and there is thought that the team could move center Justin Hartwig to left guard to make room for Kalil at center.

That bodes well for running back DeAngelo Williams, who appears set to take over as the main rusher. The Panthers reportedly are shopping erstwhile starter DeShaun Foster and have several teams interested. Foster is entering the final year of his contract and is due to count $5.8 million against the salary cap, so the Panthers are ready to let him go so their 2006 first-round pick can take over.

Meanwhile, Williams surely will be happy to know that both of Carolina's tackles will be back.