Gamble agrees in time to start camp

SPARTANBURG, S.C. -- Working late into the night on the eve of the first practice of training camp, the Carolina Panthers reached a contract agreement with first-round draft pick Chris Gamble, the standout cornerback from Ohio State.

The deal was completed a few minutes into Saturday morning, and will be signed later in the day. Neither the length of the contract nor its financial value were immediately known. It is expected that Gamble, the 28th player chosen overall, will be able to participate in at least one of the Panthers' two Saturday practices.

Carolina now has agreements in place with all six of its 2004 draft picks.

Getting Gamble to camp on time is a key for the Panthers, since he is expected to immediately compete for a starting job in a secondary unit that is being revamped despite last year's Super Bowl appearance. It also is significant since Gamble has very little experience at cornerback, having begun his career as a wide receiver.

He probably will contend with veteran Artrell Hawkins, signed as an unrestricted free agent this spring, for the No. 1 spot at right cornerback. The Panthers will change three starters in the secondary from the opener of last season. The only starter back in the same spot he played a year ago is strong safety Mike Minter.

Gamble, 21, was one of the few big cornerbacks in the '04 draft and he features a rare blend of size (6-foot-1½, 185 pounds) and speed. He started only 18 games on defense, though, for the Buckeyes, and didn't make the move to that side of the ball until late in his sophomore season.

He finished with 65 tackles, seven interceptions and 21 passes defensed. On offense, Gamble had 40 receptions for 609 yards and no touchdowns.

Len Pasquarelli is a senior writer for ESPN.com.