Ranking Carolina's free agents: Nos. 12 and 13

January, 24, 2014
1/24/14
8:00
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- We'll wrap up the first week of my ranking and evaluation of the 21 Carolina Panthers scheduled to become unrestricted free agents with a pair of interior linemen.

Meet No. 12 guard Travelle Wharton and No. 13 defensive tackle Colin Cole.

Both were starters for much of the 2013 season, but both are getting up there in age and are at positions where the Panthers have a lot of young talent they want to explore.

In case you missed the others in this ranking, they were: No. 21 quarterback Jimmy Clausen, No. 20 wide receiver Brandon LaFell, No. 19 cornerback Drayton Florence, No. 18 guard Geoff Hangartner, No. 17 linebacker Dan Connor, No. 16 linebacker Jason Williams, No. 15 tackle Bruce Campbell and No. 14 cornerback James Dockery.

Here's a closer look at Nos. 12 and 13:

12. Travelle Wharton: The 32-year-old wasn't re-signed until right before the season with starting left guard Amini Silatolu and fourth-round pick Edmund Kugbila nursing injuries. Both eventually went on injured reserve. Both also will be back next season. The Panthers also have Nate Chandler and Chris Scott at guard. So Wharton may be expendable for the same reason the Panthers waited so long to sign him. The team wants to move forward with young players. The good news is Wharton lives in the area and likely will be available if needed in an emergency situation again.

13. Colin Cole: At 33, he was a steal this past season after being out of the league for almost two years. He was a big reason the team ranked No. 2 in the league at stopping the run. But with last year's first-round pick Star Lotulelei anchoring one tackle spot, with the emergence of second-round pick Kawann Short late in the season ready to step forward in the other and Dwan Edwards under contract, re-signing Cole will come down to money and the value of his experience versus developing another young player. But remember, one of the strengths of the tackles last season was the luxury to rotate four players. I could see Cole coming back as a backup at a bargain price.

David Newton | email

ESPN Carolina Panthers reporter

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