Young Wahle plays it smart

After four seasons in the league, most offensive linemen are approaching their prime and hopefully a big pay day. Three weeks shy of his 25th birthday, Mike Wahle is hitting his prime and is on track for another big signing bonus when he's about to turn 27.

Wahle took the money that the Packers had to offer on a three-year deal and is staying put. It's a win-win situation for Wahle and the Packers. Green Bay keeps its talented offensive line intact and Wahle will get another shot at free agency in 2005.

The first time around the open market for the 6-foot-6, 310-pound lineman was far from relaxing, says Wahle. He said he tried to let his agent deal with the monetary issues while he focused on finding a team that could utilize his talents.

"It's stressful. It's very stressful," Wahle said. "You're on the phone way too much. I'm not a guy that likes to carry a cell phone around. Next time around I think it would be a lot easier to get it done as soon as possible."

Wahle visited with the Cleveland Browns and San Francisco 49ers. Many felt that the Packers would not be able to afford Wahle and trade for Terry Glenn. San Francisco seemed like a perfect fit for Wahle because the 49ers run the West Coast offense and Wahle grew up in the bay area.

"I have a lot of angst and when guys go out there and test the market," said Packers coach and general manager Mike Sherman. "You just never know. They may find some place they like. Mike's from California as is his wife, Trina. I was concerned that they may feel more at home where they grew up than here in Green Bay. Fortunately, for me, they feel that this is home for them right now, so they came back."

It is likely that Wahle received a signing bonus of around $2.5 million, similar to what center Mike Flanagan and Marco Rivera received last year. In a buyer's market, which is what many around the league have labled free agency this season, that's not bad guaranteed money for a lineman.

"I think with me being so young, I think the opportunity to be eligible again when I'm 27," Wahle said. "That's usually when people say you hit your prime as an offensive lineman in the league around 27, 28. I think that leaves me with a good opportunity to explore the free agency market and hopefully come back here."

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