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Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Mike Wahle Becomes Highest Paid Offensive Lineman




March 9, 2005

By Roger Brown

It's been a great 10 days or so for Neil Cornrich, the Beachwood-based football agent. One Cornrich client, punter Kyle Richardson, signed a fat free-agent deal with the Browns. A second, guard Mike Wahle, got the richest contract ever for an interior lineman -- a five-year, $28.5 million deal [including bonuses] with Carolina. Yet another, New England guard Stephen Neal, received a massive raise in a one-year deal designed to keep other teams from signing him as a restricted free agent. And a fourth Cornrich client, former Ohio State star cornerback Dustin Fox, greatly improved his April draft prospects by recording a 43.5-inch vertical leap at the NFL Scouting Combine -- second-best overall.

Friday, March 04, 2005

Panthers go deep to sign key pair

Free agents Wahle, Lucas get bonuses of almost $25 million

PAT YASINSKAS
Staff Writer

March 4, 2005


The Carolina Panthers, a team known for staying in shallow free-agent waters in recent years, took a huge plunge Thursday.

With the lure of about $23 million in bonus money, the Panthers landed two elite free agents: Offensive lineman Mike Wahle from Green Bay and cornerback Ken Lucas from Seattle. After not getting a single starter in last year's free-agency period, the Panthers got two on the second day players were allowed to sign with other teams.

"We don't get at this end of the pool a lot," general manager Marty Hurney said.

"But we just felt like the opportunity was right for both these guys as far as being good fits and being our kind of people as well as very good players. We hope they're two guys that will be here for a long time at very important positions for us."

Consider the moves a sign the Panthers believe they're a lot closer to being the Super Bowl team they were in 2003, than the 7-9 squad last season. Although the arrival of Lucas and Wahle might seem a departure from the team's practice of acquiring core players in the college draft, both players are young and fill major areas of needs.

Wahle, who turns 28 this month, signed a five-year deal worth up to $28 million that includes $11.5 million in bonus money split between this year and next. His cap figure for this year will be $2.7 million.

Lucas, 26, signed a six-year deal worth about $6 million a season that includes about $13 million in bonus money.

"(The Panthers) are on the doorstep," Wahle said. "I've been in this league seven years and never been to a Super Bowl. That's real important to me. I think the leadership they have here from the front office and all the way down to the players, I think we're going to be in a good position."

That position, at least on paper, got a lot better. Wahle, who spent all seven seasons with Green Bay, should help an offensive line that struggled after a series of injuries last season. Although the most glaring need seemed to be at right tackle and Wahle's contract is more representative of a tackle than a guard, the immediate plan is to place him at left guard.

"He'll more than likely start at left guard and go from there," coach John Fox said.

If the early plan holds true, Wahle will line up between center Jeff Mitchell and left tackle Jordan Gross. That's a strong trio, but there would still be major questions on the right side. Although the roster could change in free agency or in the draft, the most likely scenario would be for Travelle Wharton to get the first shot at the right tackle job.

Wharton played well after taking over as the starting left guard in the middle of his rookie season, but the team believes he has the tools to play tackle in the NFL. Tutan Reyes was the starting right guard last season and could remain in that role.

"If they need me somewhere else, we'll play somewhere else," Wahle said. "I think just getting the best five guys on the field is the best scenario and what we're looking for."

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Guards Wahle, Rivera find big money elsewhere


By TOM SILVERSTEIN
tsilverstein@journalsentinel.com

Posted: March 3, 2005


Green Bay - In refusing to meet the demands of an inflated free-agent market, new Green Bay Packers general manager Ted Thompson allowed the Carolina Panthers and Dallas Cowboys to strip him of two of his most dependable and effective players.

But as difficult as it was to see starting guards Mike Wahle and Marco Rivera walk without compensation Thursday, Thompson felt no regret over the decision and vowed that the Packers would rebuild the position before the start of the 2005 season.

"Those are losses," Thompson said after Wahle signed with the Panthers and Rivera with the Cowboys. "But this is what we do. We work at it and we try to assemble the best team we can, and maybe the next left guard and the next right guard isn't as good as the one we had before.

"But maybe we're a little better somewhere else. That's the way we'll attack it and do the best we can."

The Packers weren't surprised to see Wahle receive a deal that a source with access to NFL Players Association salary data said was worth $28 million over five years and included a two-tiered signing bonus of $11.5 million. But when Rivera received a five-year, $20 million deal that included a $9 million signing bonus from re-energized free spender Jerry Jones, they knew they were overmatched.

Wahle's deal eclipsed the six-year, $32.3 million deal ($11 million in bonuses) signed last year by Packers left tackle Chad Clifton and provided him the second-highest signing bonus for a guard in league history.

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