The Bengals finally put their money where there proverbial mouth is yesterday, jumping into the free agent fray with both feet by bringing in two players at positions of need in guard Travelle Wharton and defensive back Jason Allen.
Wharton, Carolina’s 3rd-round pick in the 2004 draft, has been a constant starter for the Panthers at both left guard and left tackle. He was cut on March 13th in a purely financial move as Carolina needed the cap space. He had a 7.6 million-dollar cap figure for the Panthers for 2012.
“It was an extremely difficult decision on Travelle,” Panthers general manager Marty Hurney said. “He’s been a tremendous player for us and he is a class act. It got to the point where in the big picture we decided it was a move we needed to make.”
Wharton immediately replaces left guard Nate Livings, who somehow swindled the Cowboys out of 19 million dollars. Most fans should embrace the move, as the general tenor of the fanbase has been “anybody but Livings” for two seasons now.
And the experts seem to agree. Profootballfocus.com rates Wharton as the better option, and his run blocking is considered superior. He may be less effective in pass protection, but his ability to play both guard and tackle was attractive to Cincinnati. He turns 31 in May, so he should have some solid football left.
Shortly after announcing the Wharton signing, word got out regarding the addition of Houston Texans DB Jason Allen. Allen, a former first-round pick of the Dolphins in 2006 (16th overall) is coming off a career year in Houston as a nickel back, having pulled in 4 interception and 11 passes defensed in 2011.
Allen will turn 29 in July, and has 15 career interceptions in seven seasons. He looks to bring an upgrade over nickels Adam Jones and Kelly Jennings, and some have speculated that he could compete for the starting free safety position if Reggie Nelson doesn’t re-sign with the club.
With Wharton in the fold, the Bengals have solidified the left guard position. It’s assumed the Clint Boling, last year’s fourth round pick, will take over for Bobbie Williams on the right side (though the team might bring him back). The Bengals also have G Otis Hudson under contract, and will likely draft another interior lineman.
In the secondary, reports are that Leon Hall’s rehab is on schedule, so the team anticipates he will return to the starting line-up for 2012 opposite Nate Clements. However, they’ll likely bring in another free agent defensive back and will draft at least one, potentially in the first round.
The Bengal brain trust will now likely turn their attention to running back, with visits scheduled with Michael Bush and Benjarvus Green-Ellis next week. No word on whether the team has called about San Diego’s Mike Tolbert, who would also be a good pick-up.