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Panthers get Wahle, Lucas in signing binge

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (March 3, 2005) -- The Carolina Panthers signed offensive lineman Mike Wahle and cornerback Ken Lucas to long-term contracts, the most aggressive single day of free agent acquisitions in franchise history.

Wahle, who spent seven seasons in Green Bay, signed a five-year deal worth about $25 million. Lucas, a three-year starter in Seattle, signed a six-year contract. Terms on Lucas' deal were not immediately available, but his signing bonus was believed to be $13 million.

The Packers were forced to release Wahle earlier this week in a salary-cap move. Considered one of the top free-agent offensive linemen, he can play guard or tackle.

The Panthers said they will start him out at left guard. Wahle has started 83 of 97 games in his career, including 64 straight.

Lucas was Seattle's second-round draft pick in 2001. He started 47 games and has 11 career interceptions.

Lucas had six picks last season, tying him with Carolina cornerback Chris Gamble for most in the NFC.

Now, he may push Gamble out of a starting job. Panthers coach John Fox said Lucas will start for Carolina, and Gamble and Ricky Manning Jr. will have to battle for the other slot.

Gamble was a first-round draft pick last season, and Manning is best known for his three interceptions against Philadelphia in the 2004 NFC Championship Game.

The signings are unusual for the Panthers, who have traditionally sat back during the first few days of free agency as teams frantically pursue new talent. Carolina has made a habit of waiting until the signing period calms down a bit, then combing through the leftovers.

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