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Wahle close to Contract with Panther


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I really wanted this kid. He is a mirror image of Pete Kendall except quick enough to play right tackle too.


Panthers nearing deal with coveted free-agent lineman Wahle

March 2, 2005

By Clark Judge

SportsLine.com Senior Writer

Tell Clark your opinion!

Free-agent offensive lineman Mike Wahle was in Carolina on Wednesday night and is close to a deal that could be reached as early as Thursday, a league source said.

While cautioning that nothing has been finalized, the source said the Panthers are the leading candidate to land the coveted Wahle. The former Green Bay Packer, who played left guard the past four seasons, is considered the top offensive lineman in this year's free-agent market.

"This will be one of the top five signings this year," said one NFC player personnel director. "I assume the Panthers -- if they sign him -- play him at right tackle. If he's inside he can struggle a little against big guys, but if you put him on the edge he's outstanding.

"He stays on his feet. He has good balance. He hooks guys. He's quick. He reacts well. I am very impressed if they get this done. Along with (left tackle) Jordan Gross, this gives them a pair of bookend tackles who are terrific."

A salary-cap casualty who was released earlier this week, the 27-year-old Wahle helped the Packers establish team records last year in total net yards, net passing yards and fewest sacks allowed.

Mike Wahle leaves a major void in the Packers' O-line. Wahle, who didn't miss a start the past four years, was released after the Packers failed to renegotiate a contract that counted $11.375 million against this year's cap.

Wahle is one of two outstanding offensive linemen the Packers are likely to lose. The other is three-time Pro Bowler Marco Rivera, who, like Wahle, is an unrestricted free agent.

Wahle's expected addition is perfect for a Carolina team that struggled with continuity on its offensive line last season. Only two of the club's starting offensive linemen -- Gross and center Jeff Mitchell -- did not miss a start last year.

Of course, that was more the rule than the exception with a club that subtracted star receiver Steve Smith and running backs Stephen Davis and DeShaun Foster. Still, it's hard to ignore the numbers: The Panthers' rushing attack gained 509 fewer yards than the year before and its average per carry dropped from 4.0 to 3.7.

In addition, quarterbacks Jake Delhomme and Rodney Peete, sacked 26 times in 2003, were dropped seven more times a year later.

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