Panthers travel west for OL help

Darin GanttMarch 3, 2008 

CHARLOTTE -- The Carolina Panthers made a cross-country trip Monday to do some left tackle shopping.

Having already declared their intention to move incumbent Travelle Wharton inside to guard if they can find a qualified replacement, the Panthers spent the day interviewing perhaps the best available options in the draft and free agency.

Ostensibly, the trip was to meet with and watch the pro day workout of Boise State's Ryan Clady, the consensus second-best tackle in this year's rookie crop -- behind Michigan's Jake Long, who might be a better fit on the right side. But while they were there, they also touched base with free agent Barry Sims, who was just released by Oakland.

According to the Idaho Statesman, Clady had lunch with Panthers general manager Marty Hurney, coach John Fox, offensive coordinator Jeff Davidson and offensive line coach Dave Magazu following his workout. That they'd be interested is no surprise, though he's not expected to be around when their first pick (13th overall) is used.

But last week, Hurney talked about the "flexibility" they gained by adding two draft picks in the Kris Jenkins trade, and they haven't been bashful about moving up in the draft to get their guy. Since 2002, the Panthers have done eight draft-day trades involving picks. According to the draft value chart most teams use, they could package their own first- and the third-rounders obtained from the New York Jets, and have a value equivalent to the eighth overall pick (which is held by Baltimore). That still might not be high enough to land Clady, which had them covering other bases, as well.

While there, Fox and Magazu met with Sims, a veteran with 119 starts in the league, including all 16 for the Raiders last year.

The 33-year-old blocker attracted their attention early. As soon as he was released by the Raiders, the Panthers were quick to put in a call, one of the first four teams to line up, according to his agent. Since they were already going to be on that side of the continent, Sims caught a flight up from his Bay Area home to meet with the Panthers.

"This was about getting to know people, this was the first step," said Sims' agent, Ken Vierra. "We figured the easiest way to get them together, to go where we knew they were going to be."

Vierra said Monday evening the two sides had not talked contract terms yet, though he expected to in the next few days.

Sims has been a durable player, missing just seven games in nine years with the Raiders, where he played both guard and tackle. If they sign him, he could give them a few years at tackle, allowing them to look elsewhere with their first pick.

Of course, the Panthers were working on other fronts, as well.

They agreed to a two-year, $2 million deal with former Pittsburgh, Baltimore and Arizona guard Keydrick Vincent, and hosted former Philadelphia and Chicago defensive tackle Ian Scott.

At the least, the 29-year-old Vincent adds depth to the interior of their line. He's started 49 games in seven seasons, including all 16 for the Steelers in 2004. At 6-foot-5, 325 pounds, he's a bigger-framed blocker than some of their other options.

Scott, 26, spent last year on injured reserve with a knee problem. The former fourth-round pick out of Florida is a native of Greenville. He'd provide a decent backup. The Panthers have also had former Atlanta starter Rod Coleman in for a visit, but there are concerns about his health after he left both Carolina and Tampa Bay without a deal.

Also Monday, defensive end Tyler Brayton wrapped up his visit with Indianapolis after meeting with the Panthers over the weekend. His agent said there was no update on contract talks with either team.

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