Bengals make first move, add Wharton

March, 17, 2012
3/17/12
1:32
PM ET
It took until the fourth day of free agency, but the Cincinnati Bengals finally broke the ice in free agency.

With the second-most salary-cap space in the NFL the Bengals signed Panthers free-agent guard Travelle Wharton, according to reports by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and the Cincinnati Enquirer. There were no immediate contract details on Wharton, who had visited the Rams.

While the Bengals' first signing took longer than many expected, this is a solid first step for Cincinnati. The Bengals desperately needed to upgrade at guard and needed to someone who would boost the run game. Wharton's strength is run blocking.

The Bengals could have made a bigger splash if they had gone after someone like Ben Grubbs, but this a much better signing than Rams free-agent guard Jacob Bell (who visited the Bengals this week) or bringing back Nate Livings (who signed with the Dallas Cowboys).

Wharton, 30, was a third-round pick by Carolina in 2004. It appears that he was released reluctantly four days ago by the Panthers, who couldn't take on Wharton's $7.6 million cap figure. “It was an extremely difficult decision on Travelle,” Panthers general manager Marty Hurney said at the time.

Jamison Hensley

ESPN Ravens reporter

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