Gross confounded by team's lack of effort

02/16/2008 12:07 AM

02/16/2008 12:15 AM

CHARLOTTE -- Even with all the money the Carolina Panthers handed out Thursday, there was still a big elephant in the middle of the room Friday.

An elephant whose phone isn't ringing.

A day after the team spent roughly $50 million on safety Chris Harris and left tackle Travelle Wharton, Panthers right tackle Jordan Gross said he was a little confounded by the lack of action on his front. Gross isn't going anywhere, knowing he'll be franchised next Thursday if a deal isn't done by then and hopeful a long-term deal will get finished soon. Still, he'd like to hear from something other than a dial tone.

"We're kind of waiting on them; I thought we'd have heard something by now, but there's really been no progress," Gross said Friday. "Based on what we've talked about, it's like they're going to do all the other stuff first before they get to me."

The Panthers are working on a number of deals right now, negotiating with Brad Hoover, Mike Rucker and a number of their other free agents. They're also fielding phone calls, waiting to see if they can work out a trade for running back DeShaun Foster before they cut him.

It's a busy time, unless you're Gross, who's hanging out with his family in Idaho, just waiting for something to happen.

He's resigned that he'll be tagged -- bringing along a $7.455 million guarantee for one year -- but he's still hoping for the long-term deal. That would also benefit the Panthers, significantly dropping the salary cap responsibility this year, thus enabling them to make more moves.

"It's kind of tough to say what's happening, because you don't know what the market is this year," Gross said. "But based on the numbers we were talking about the last time we talked, it's not like we're light years apart.

"It's not like we're in a different book, we're just on different pages."

The bar was set for premium offensive line deals last year with the seven-year, $49 million deals for Leonard Davis, Eric Steinbach and Derrick Dockery. Like Gross, none had played in a Pro Bowl when signed. Unlike Gross, they all play guard, while he's a tackle.

And given the lack of comparable players in this year's free agent market (the only established starter is 32-year-old Dallas left tackle Flozell Adams, who might also get tagged), it's not as if there are deals coming soon that they can use as a current measuring stick.

As for Foster, the Panthers are listening, trying to see if they can gin up a market for a player they're expected to release anyway. They'd still be on the hook for a $2 million portion of his signing bonus against the salary cap, but they'd clear $4.75 million with a trade or a release. Players can't be traded until Feb. 29, the same day free agency begins.

Also Friday, the Panthers finalized deals with a pair of their own exclusive rights free agents. Quarterback Brett Basanez and wide receiver Jason Carter inked their deals. They couldn't negotiate with other teams.

Basanez could well end up the third quarterback if the Panthers don't bring in a veteran backup to Jake Delhomme and Matt Moore. This of course includes the eventual release of David Carr. Carter's an interesting prospect, who spent most of last year on the practice squad. He's going to be part of a crowded field at the position trying to redefine itself.

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