Fordham likely will battle for starting job

Originally Published: September 4, 2004
By Len Pasquarelli | ESPN.com

For the second time in a week, the Carolina Panthers have added a tackle to their injury-depleted offensive line.

Todd Fordham
Fordham

The team acquired veteran Todd Fordham from the Pittsburgh Steelers in exchange for a 2005 draft choice Saturday, ESPN.com has learned.

The addition of Fordham comes as the defending NFC champions not only move toward reducing their roster to the regular-season limit on Sunday, but also as team officials and coaches attempt to bolster a unit that is dramatically different than the one that started in Super Bowl XXXVIII just seven months ago.

Last week, the Panthers dealt for tackle Javiar Collins, sending a conditional choice in the 2005 draft to the Dallas Cowboys for the fourth-year veteran.

Fordham, 30, is a seven-year veteran who competed with Oliver Ross for the starting right tackle spot in the Steelers' training camp, but lost that battle and was set to open the year as Pittsburgh's No. 3 tackle. Given what has transpired on the Carolina offensive line, there is a chance that Fordham could vie quickly for a starting job.

The Panthers early in the offseason moved right tackle Jordan Gross, one of the league's top rookies in 2003, to the left side, his more natural position, to replace Todd Steussie, who was waived. Carolina then signed former Indianapolis starter Adam Meadows to be the starting right tackle, but he abruptly retired three weeks into camp, citing his lingering shoulder problems.

Carolina has used career backups Matt Willig, who currently is coming back from a camp injury, and Melvin Tuten, who was released Saturday, at the position. The Panthers have just one starter, center Jeff Mitchell, playing the same position at which he started last season. Team scouts watched Fordham closely in the Thursday night preseason game with the Steelers, and decided he might be a good fit, given the Panthers' ongoing problems.

It will not be surprising if Carolina adds another backup-type offensive lineman after the final cuts are made leaguewide.

A former Florida State standout, Fordham originally entered the league with Jacksonville as an undrafted college free agent in '97. In stints with the Jaguars, Broncos and Steelers, he has appeared in 67 games and has 36 starts. He started in six of his 11 appearances with the Steelers in 2003.

Len Pasquarelli is a senior writer for ESPN.com.

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