Panthers beat deadline, extend Bridges, Goings

Beating the league's Saturday deadline for signing players to new contracts, and being able to use remaining 2006 salary cap funds for the deals, the Carolina Panthers have signed offensive tackle Jeremy Bridges and versatile running back Nick Goings to three-year extensions.

Both veterans were eligible to become unrestricted free agents in the spring.

Financial details of the three-year extensions were not yet available.

The retention of Bridges, 26, figures to provide Carolina great depth and considerable flexibility in 2007 if all its injured offensive linemen return healthy. The Panthers signed Bridges in September after starting left tackle Travelle Wharton was lost to a season-ending knee injury, and right tackle Jordan Gross had to move to the left side.

Bridges moved in at right tackle, started 13 games there, and helped stabilize the blocking unit. The former Southern Mississippi standout, who had never started more than eight games in a season before this year, has 24 starts in his 34 career appearances with Philadelphia (2003), Arizona (2004-2005) and Carolina (2006).

If Wharton returns healthy, as anticipated, for 2007 and Jordan goes back again to the right tackle spot he prefers, Bridges could move inside to guard, a position he has played in the past.

Despite starting only 13 game in 84 appearances, Goings is one of the Panthers' most important role players. The six-year veteran, signed as an undrafted college free agent in 2006, does a little bit of everything for coach John Fox, and the staff relies on the former University of Pittsburgh star to fill in where needed.

Goings, 28, has rushed for 1,460 yards and six touchdowns on 391 carries. He has 107 receptions for 879 yards and three touchdowns and has averaged 23.9 yards on kickoff returns. Goings is also a strong special teams performer, with 40-plus tackles on the coverage units.

Senior writer Len Pasquarelli covers the NFL for ESPN.com.