Bridges happy to remain a Panther

The Carolina Panthers quietly gained depth on the offensive line when they signed Jeremy Bridges to a three-year contract extension the day before their season finale against the New Orleans Saints.

Bridges was a pleasant surprise for the Panthers in a season that had too few of them.

After being cut by the Arizona Cardinals in late August, he spent two weeks away from the game before signing with the Panthers when Travelle Wharton went down with a knee injury in Carolina's season opener.

With only five practices under his belt, Bridges stepped in to start in Week 3 at right tackle -- a position he'd never played before at the pro level -- and went on to start 14 games for Carolina. He wasn't dominant, but the Panthers clearly felt he played well enough to compete for time next year.

"It has been a blessing to come here," Bridges said. "Once I got here they told me I would be playing right tackle. I hadn't played it in a few years (since college at Southern Miss), so I had to get back into the swing of it. I learned the playbook real fast and got everything down. I did a lot of studying. I felt like I was back in college."

The big question now for Bridges is what position he'll end up at next season.

Jordan Gross is expected to move back to right tackle next season when Wharton returns at left tackle. The Panthers also have Rashad Butler, a 2006 third-round draft pick who did not play as a rookie, returning next year.

At the very least, Bridges will be the team's new Todd Fordham, meaning he would be the first tackle off the bench in the event of an injury.

But there's also a possibility he may move to guard, a position he's played in the past. In 2004 and 2005, he started 11 games for Arizona at guard.

The Panthers are likely to address their offensive line at some point this off-season and the popular theory is to nab a left tackle and move Wharton to right guard and Gross back to right tackle, his more comfortable position. But it's unclear at this point if there's an offensive tackle out there the Panthers might like well enough to invest big money in.

Wherever he ends up playing next season, Bridges is happy to have some security.

After being signed and cut three times by Cardinals in less than a year, he appears to have found a home in Carolina. Bridges received a three-year contract from the Panthers prior to the season finale against the Saints.

It's unclear of his signing bonus, but his base salaries are $700,000 for 2007, $1.2 million for 2008 and $1.25 million for 2009, which is good backup money.

"Hard work pays off. I went through a lot in Arizona and I think the average guy would have given up, you know what I'm saying? I had to fight," Bridges said.


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