Panthers release former first-round pick Morgan, guard Wahle
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 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.
Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press
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