Panthers sign Wharton to shore up O-line

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Travelle Wharton has an opportunity to make an instant impact on the Carolina Panthers' injury-plagued offensive line after the team signed the 6-foot-4, 316-pound free agent Sunday to a one-year deal.

Wharton likely will compete with Garry Williams for the starting spot at right guard, but he also could factor in at left guard, where starter Amini Silatolu already has been ruled out of Thursday's preseason finale against Pittsburgh with a hamstring injury. Fourth-round draft pick Edmund Kugbila also is back on the sideline with a strained hamstring the day after his first practice after missing most of spring drills and training camp.

Coach Ron Rivera said after Sunday's practice that Chris Scott would start at left guard against the Steelers.

This is a homecoming for Wharton. A third-round pick in 2004, he spent his first eight seasons with Carolina, starting 99 games at guard and tackle.

He was released in 2012 and picked up by Cincinnati, where he suffered a season-ending knee injury. He hasn't played since.

The Panthers have struggled on the line in their three preseason games. Leading rusher DeAngelo Williams is averaging only 2.9 yards per carry. Kenjon Barner, second on the team in rushing, has a 2.8 average. The first-team offense has scored only one touchdown.

Wharton gives Carolina 79 players on its roster, meaning four players must be cut by Tuesday afternoon.