In a slow week, the Panthers signed two large guards, one with a storied but rollercoaster playing history, but both with starting experience.
Tonui Fonoti (6'5, 330-350), a 26 year old Hawaii native of Samoan descent, was a 2nd round (39th overall) pick in the 2002 draft by the Chargers. A Sports Illustrated (i.e. unofficial) All-Pro in 2004, he was traded to the Vikings in 2005 and put on IR after two games. Fonoti washed out as a Buccaneer in camp in 2006, and played in six games for the Dolphins; Fonoti was released again in camp after being picked up by the Falcons. He started 33 of 40 contests, with most of them coming in the first three years.
Fonoti, by all regards, had eaten his way out of the league. A recent statement by Darin Gantt of the Rock Hill Herald states: "According to multiple sources around the team who've seen him, he's closer to 330 now, in what one teammate referred to as "great shape." It's solid news for a guy who had been rumored to have played at 390 last year (which likely means having come into camp over 400 lbs), but having been in 5 locker rooms in three years isn't a good sign. That's most likely why he's fighting for a job as opposed to having one.
Milford Brown (6'5, 325) is a 27 year old guard originally of the Texans (6th round supplemental draft, 2002, out of Florida State). A 43 game starter over the last six years, Brown started 12 of 13 for the Texans in 2005 in a contract year, then signed with the Cardinals in 2006 starting 12 of 13 again. As a Ram in 2007, Brown stated 15 of 16. In all, Brown had given up 10 sacks and 8 holding penalties in his time as a starter prior to 2007.
Fonoti was assigned #66. Brown takes #61.
My initial assumption was that the team would inevitably move on a DT in the next few weeks, and they may. The guards signings, especially two, are welcome but somewhat surprising. The team has determined itself to take a more active role in run blocking, and is starting with some widebody guys to play RG (and possibly goal-line TE).
Initially, this pairing would suggest a move for the Panthers to not draft an OT at 13. While it does continue to allow the flexibility (and Travelle Wharton would certainly still be a fine OT), the move certainly doesn't preclude the team from continuing to use Wharton at guard. The three new guards - Kendrick Vincent, Fonoti, and Brown - are all sizeable, averaging 6'5, 330. These are all competition players for the RG position, not for Wharton's expected LG position.