Panthers release G Wharton, sign G Hangartner

Associated Press  |  Last updated March 13, 2012
It was the changing of the guard Tuesday in Carolina The Panthers released starting left guard Travelle Wharton and re-signed starting right guard Geoff Hangartner. Wharton was due a base salary of $5.7 million this season under the NFL salary cap, which necessitated the move. Panthers general manager Marty Hurney called the decision to release Wharton extremely tough. ''He's been a tremendous player for us and he is a class act,'' Hurney said. ''It got to the point where in the big picture we decided it was a move we needed to make. We placed a June 1 designation on his release, which means we will carry his cap number until June 1, but Travelle is immediately able to negotiate and sign with another team.'' Wharton was a third-round draft pick by the Panthers in 2004 out of South Carolina and started 99 games over the past eight seasons. He was extremely valuable in terms of his versatility, sliding out to play left tackle when Pro Bowler Jordan Gross broke his ankle in 2009. ''He was a very valuable player for us,'' Hurney said. Hangartner has played in 71 games with 43 starts for Carolina and also started 28 games in two seasons with the Bills. ''We drafted Geoff in the fifth round in 2005 and lost him through free agency and were glad to have him back last season when he resumed his starting role,'' Hurney said. Hurney said Hangartner signed a three-year deal, but did not release financial terms. Hangartner started all 16 games last season at right guard in his second stint with Carolina. He signed late in the preseason after injuries to other players and played well. ''This is where I wanted to be,'' Hangartner said. ''Luckily we got it worked out. I didn't want to spend free agency hunting for more some money elsewhere when I really like this organization. I've been in the league now for seven years and there is no better organization than the one (team owner) Mr. (Jerry) Richardson runs here.'' Hurney said he didn't expect the Panthers to sign any unrestricted free agents from other teams on the first day of free agency. ''We'll evaluate how things progress in the next few days,'' Hurney said. Hurney also confirmed linebacker Thomas Davis will be back with the team after restructuring his contract. Nine Carolina unrestricted free agents hit the open market Tuesday: quarterback Derek Anderson, tight end Jeremy Shockey, wide receiver Legedu Naanee, offensive lineman Mackenzy Bernadeau, linebackers Dan Connor, Jordan Senn and Omar Gaither, defensive end Antwan Applewhite and cornerback Cletis Gordon.
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