Changing of the guard for Panthers

The Carolina Panthers signed one guard Tuesday and let another go. As we told you earlier, the Panthers re-signed Geoff Hangartner to a three-year deal. The team just announced the flip side of that.

Veteran guard Travelle Wharton, who also played some tackle earlier in his career, has been released.

“It was an extremely difficult decision on Travelle,” 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. We placed a June 1 designation on his release, which means we will carry his cap number until June 1, but Travelle is immediately able to negotiate and sign with another team.”

Wharton’s age likely was a factor in the decision. But the bigger factor was his salary, because the Panthers had to make moves to get under the salary cap before the start of free agency.

Wharton was scheduled to count $7.6 million toward this year’s cap. The Panthers will have to absorb $3.6 million of that against the cap, but the June 1 designation allows them to spread that out over this year and next.

The Panthers appear ready to go with Hangartner and Garry Williams as their starting guards. Williams was injured last preseason, but the team thought so highly of him that he was signed to an extension in November that will keep him under contract through 2013.