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Thursday, February 14, 2008

Wharton Gets Valentine's Love; Harris Extended

Impending Free Agent Travelle Wharton, a native South Carolinian and Gamecock, is apparently now a career Panther. The 2004 3rd round pick signed a 6 year deal reported to be in the $34-37 million range, with a $12 million bonus.

The move locks up the cheaper tackle, in theory; Jordan Gross, the other tackle, at the traditionally less valued right tackle spot, has been in negotiation for a long term deal as well; Gross opted out of the final two years of his 2003 deal to make him a 2008 free agent, but the team intends to place the franchise tag on him if they cannot reach a deal with him before February 21.

Wharton was lost for the 2006 season with a knee injury after a promising rookie campaign at guard and starting the entire 2005 season at left tackle; his 2007 campaign started out roughly, giving up 8 sacks in the first ten games, but settled down to give up one in the final six. The new deal is expected to cost the team a 2008 cap hit of around $2.33 million, assuming an $8 mil initial bonus, a 2nd year $4 million convertable bonus, and a first year salary of $1 million.

Safety Chris Harris was extended yesterday, in a move that will return the defense's hardest hitter for four more years. Harris, signed through 2008, would've been a free agent after the year, but signed a deal expected to be around 4 years, $14 million and placing the safety on board through 2012. It was expected that the team would add years to his deal if he excelled, as part of the trade that brought him from the Chicago Bears. Harris responded with 102 tackles, second on the team; 8 FF, which led the league; 3 fumble recoveries, 1 INT, and 5 defended passes.

The move lends some longevity to the position for the first time since Mike Minter, the player Harris replaced. Minter saw, from 2004-2006, nine different safeties vying to be the replacement to Deon Grant. The position is still vacant, but without Harris, the secondary would have a much larger hole.
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