Travelle Wharton released: Should the Panthers bring back a familiar face?

Brian A. Westerholt

Absence makes the heart grow fonder. It's an old cliche, but typifies the guard position after releasing the long-standing left guard.

Travelle Wharton is a free agent. The Cincinnati Bengals terminated the contract of the 32-year-old offensive guard today, making him free to sign with any team immediately. It might not seem prudent to burn rollover cap space on a short-term solution, but it makes sense when the right guard position is as poor as Carolina's.

Sensible organizations shouldn't rely on rookies to start immediately on their offensive line. The failings of 2012 were a combination of failing scheme, and Ryan Kalil's injury -- but thrusting Amini Silatolu into a starting job didn't help an already ailing line.

The situation in 2013 isn't dissimilar, except now the problem is at right guard. Hoping Edmund Kugbila can be the answer immediately is throwing darts in the dark, and at this point Geoff Hangartner's performance is so poor he might as well be a mid-round rookie.

Wharton was an oft-maligned, unfairly scapegoated player during his tenure with the Panthers. He was an above-average starter at left guard, and more importantly could be moved around the line as needed. His best position isn't on the right side, however even an out-of-position Wharton is better than the alternative.

Most importantly he's a team player. The guy who will do anything that's asked of him, including help mentor younger players. It's in this role that Carolina desperately need some veteran leadership. Silatolu is doing now what Wharton was asked to do in the early 2000's -- help the left tackle, and block in space when needed. To this end he fills another immediate need -- further justifying signing the 9-year veteran.

Good offensive linemen are hard to come by, especially ones who would be willing to take a one-year deal. It's not the time to pussyfoot around and hope an unexpected answer emerges, especially when it comes to protecting Cam Newton. While Wharton isn't a Dave Gettleman guy, hopefully Gettleman has the sensibility to notice where his roster is lacking and wont stand on ceremony.

It's rare that a team get to rectify a mistake, and not finding a way to re-work Wharton was a misjudgment by Carolina, and placed too much faith in the team's youth. Fix it for 2013.

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