As most of you already know, the Bengals signed their first free agent Saturday. Former Panthers guard Travelle Wharton agreed to a three year deal worth $10 million. Wharton is already familiar with the city of Cincinnati. For a part of his youth, Wharton spent every other summer traveling from South Carolina to Cincinnati for a family reunion.
Wharton, 30, says that he is excited to join a team on the rise:
"Half of my grandmother's side moved to Cincinnati in the '40s. Her sister lived up on Reading Road," Wharton said. "I'm not sure where, but I'm sure when this hits the paper tomorrow I'll hear from them. I've got a lot of family here. A lot of cousins. That's why it's so unique to be here in Cincinnati."
"It's a young team that's playing well and winning. You can see it on the rise. Last year was a prime example and I wanted to be a part of something special. I felt like coming here I was going to be with a good group of guys that's winning."
Profootballfocus.com ranked Wharton 38 out of 77 guards in 2011. The recently departed Nate Livings was ranked at 56. Profootball focus says:
"On top of having the ability to provide emergency cover at LT, Wharton is a clear and quick upgrade on former Bengal Nate Livings, who jumped ship to Dallas yesterday," the site said. "Wharton had his struggles in pass protection (yielding 30 pressures last year) but is a clear upgrade on Livings as a run blocker."
The fact that Wharton can slide into left tackle in an emergency situation makes him especially attractive since backup tackle Anthony Collins is currently a free agent. Offensive line coach Paul Alexander likes the versatility that Wharton offers:
"We liked him coming out (third round in 2004) and we knew he was a great guy who likes to work and football is important," Alexander said. "He hits us perfectly, really. He's a solid player and he secures us a backup at left tackle in case something happens to Whit."
The Bengals are hoping that Wharton can help upgrade a running game that only ranked 19th last season and 27th in 2010. Wharton says that he likes helping out with the running game:
"I like that part of it. I like to get after people in the running game," Wharton said
Wharton provides much needed depth on the offensive line for the Bengals. The only other current guards on the roster are Clint Boling and Otis Hudson. Mike McGlynn left for the Colts and it is unknown whether veteran Bobbie Williams will return. Bengals.com writer Geoff Hobson writes that the Bengals could pursue bringing back Williams at a later date, but he is recovering from ankle surgery.