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Panthers release former first-round pick Morgan, guard Wahle

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The Carolina Panthers finally ran out of
patience with injury-prone linebacker Dan Morgan.

The Panthers released their former first-round pick Monday after
seven seasons. He was dominant when he played, but was on the field
for only 59 of 112 games.

The Panthers also released veteran Mike Wahle, who started 16
games at left guard last season. The moves were the first of what
are expected to be many after consecutive non-winning seasons.

Morgan was Carolina's first-round pick in 2001, and wowed
coaches and fans with a combination of hard hits and speed. Morgan
had 25 tackles in Carolina's loss to New England in the Super Bowl
four years ago, and his 452 tackles rank third in team history.

Morgan just couldn't stay healthy. He never played all 16 games
in a season due to numerous injuries, including at least five
concussions.

He missed all but one game of the 2006 season after sustaining
two concussions in a month. The Panthers brought him back for 2007
only after he agreed to restructure his contract so that his bonus
money was based on the number of games he played.

Wearing a special mouthpiece and helmet with special padding,
Morgan regained his starting position, only to suffer a partial
tear in his right Achilles tendon in Week 3.

Morgan eventually underwent surgery and missed the final 13
games. Rookie Jon Beason moved to Morgan's middle linebacker spot
and thrived, leading the team in tackles, while making Morgan
expendable.

"Last year, with the way things went and the emergence of Jon
Beason, we felt that it was time to go in another direction,"
general manager Marty Hurney said. "I can't speak for Dan, but
he's looking forward to continuing to play and maybe a change of
scenery will be good as well."

Morgan said the day after the season ended that he wanted to
return in 2008, but seemed resigned to his fate in Carolina,
wishing reporters well if he didn't see them again.

Morgan's agent, Drew Rosenhaus, said Morgan needs a change of
scenery.
"We thought it was a mutually good idea. It's important for Dan
to get a fresh start," Rosenhaus said. "He's been a little bit
snakebit in the last couple of years in Carolina. It'll do him some
good to start over with another organization.

"It does not come as a surprise. Dan will definitely be playing
football in 2008. He's way ahead of schedule on his recovery."

Cutting Morgan and Wahle clears an estimated $6 million in
salary cap space for the Panthers, who are expected to be active in
the offseason after finishing 7-9 and out of the playoffs for a
second straight year.

"These were tough decisions because Dan and Mike have been
valuable members of our team and have done everything we have asked
of them over the years," coach John Fox said in a statement.
"They are both very dedicated to the game of football and earned
the respect of everyone who worked with them."

Wahle was a three-year starter with Carolina after being signed
as a free agent from Green Bay before the 2005 season. But Wahle
turns 30 next month and had a large salary cap figure.

"We've kind of decided we're going to change some things on the
offensive line and rework that unit a little bit," Hurney said.
"Mike's been here three years and has been very good for us. He
made one Pro Bowl and was an alternate in another."

The Panthers could move center Justin Hartwig to Wahle's old
guard spot next season and insert Ryan Kalil, a second-round pick
in 2007, at center.

The Panthers are also tying to clear cap space so they can
re-sign starting right tackle Jordan Gross, bring in another
receiver and upgrade their defensive line after finishing 7-9 last
season and out of the playoffs for a second straight year.

Morgan and Wahle were let go on the first day the waiver wire
opened and players were eligible to be cut. The Panthers did not
immediately release quarterback David Carr, who was so ineffective
after signing a two-year deal in the offseason that Fox
acknowledged he made him the No. 3 QB late in the season so he
could shield him from booing home fans.