Wharton, the Bengals' first free-agent signing last year, was projected to be the team's starting left guard until a knee injury in the preseason opener sidelined him for the rest of the year. The Bengals save $1.6 million against the salary cap by cutting Wharton, who earned $4 million in first-year payments despite never playing a game for the Bengals.
Cincinnati was able to make the move because Clint Boling, a fourth-round pick in 2011, played solidly in replacing Wharton. Boling was rated the 11th-best left guard in the league last season by Pro Football Focus. The Bengals weren't going to keep Wharton as a backup when he had the team's ninth-highest salary-cap number ($3.375 million).
Another factor was the Bengals' depth on the interior of the offensive line. According to the team's official website, the player who fails to win the starting center job (Kyle Cook or Trevor Robinson) will be the top backup at center and guard.
The release of Wharton is another reminder of how the Bengals weren't successful in free agency last year. The Bengals' top signings of free agents from other teams in 2012 were: Wharton, running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis, cornerback Terence Newman, cornerback Jason Allen, defensive lineman Jamaal Anderson and defensive end Derrick Harvey. Only Green-Ellis and Newman remain with the team.