Originally posted on Fox Sports Carolinas  |  Last updated 3/19/12
Because linebacker Thomas Davis was willing to give up some money, he got a chance to come back to the Carolina Panthers. Because left guard Travelle Wharton wouldn't, he went on the market until being signed by Cincinnati. The two long-time Panthers had different approaches to the Panthers' need for salary cap space, explaining their current job status. Davis restructured his contract prior to the start of free agency, freeing up nearly 4 million worth of cap space. He did it primarily by giving up most of the money coming his way this year in exchange for a shot at coming back from an unprecedented injury history. Davis is rehabbing from his third torn ACL in his right knee, making his return to his old form far from certain. As a result, his 8 million roster bonus went away, as did his 2.25 million salary he was scheduled to make this year. In their place are larger salaries in the latter years of his deal, and a 700,000 base this year. Davis has progressed well in his rehab, and there's a clear need for him. When he's well, he's the kind of play-maker they need on the weak side. That was missing last year after his early injury, and the Panthers had no acceptable backup plan which was part of a disastrous defensive collapse. Wharton was scheduled to make 5.7 million in base salary this year, and was going to count more than 7 million against the cap. The Panthers offered to reduce those numbers, but Wharton declined, making it necessary to go another direction. The 30 year old had started 99 games in eight years, bouncing effectively from tackle to guard. Those 99 starts were behind only left tackle Jordan Gross in team history. Without him, the Panthers brought back guard Geoff Hangartner on a three-year deal, and started looking around the discard pile for help. Hangartner's a versatile swingman who started all 16 at right guard last year. He has experience at center as well, and was primarily the Panthers' sixth man before leaving for Buffalo as a free agent after the 2008 season, filling in at all the inside spots as needed. They also brought former Baltimore and St. Louis center Jason Brown for a visit, with an eye toward giving him a chance to return to his previous form. The North Carolina native was one of the top interior blockers in the game prior to signing his megadeal in 2009 with St. Louis, where he regressed badly. Carolina offers a reunion with line coach John Matsko (who coached him with the Ravens) and an immediate opportunity to start. Brown would give them a veteran piece, keeping them from forcing one of their developmental blockers between Pro Bowlers Gross and center Ryan Kalil. NOTES, QUOTES -The Panthers are looking at safety help, but aren't trying to make a huge splash. They're brought in Baltimore backup Haruki Nakamura, and contacted San Diego's Steve Gregory about a possible visit. But Gregory signed with New England Thursday (March 15). Nakamura then signed Friday with the Panthers. They'd like to have a reliable backup in place, someone who could either push starter Sherrod Martin into playing better or replace him. They also need all the special teams help they can get, as their coverage teams were a mess after injuries forced all their good special teamers into starting jobs. -Backup quarterback Derek Anderson agreed to a new one-year deal, giving them a trustworthy clipboard holder. Anderson didn't throw a pass last year, which is good for the Panthers. His primary contribution is knowing Rob Chudzinski's offense from his days in Cleveland (his one Pro Bowl year). -While there were reports third quarterback Jimmy Clausen had a 923,000 roster bonus due this month, that's not the case. He failed to trigger that bonus by not reaching statistical benchmarks when he played in 2010. The Panthers still might trade him or release him, but it won't be because of an immediate financial need. QUOTE TO NOTE "It was an extremely difficult decision on Travelle. He's been a tremendous player for us and he is a class act. It got to the point where in the big picture we decided it was a move we needed to make." - General manager Marty Hurney, on the release of Wharton.
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