Panthers offseason guide: Gettleman surmises addition by subtraction for team in tough salary-cap spot

jperson@charlotteobserver.comFebruary 9, 2013 

  • Panthers’ Potential Salary Cap Casualties CB Chris Gamble

    Gamble, who turns 30 next month, remains the Panthers’ best cover corner, despite injuries two of the last three seasons. But they simply can’t afford him with their cap situation. Gamble has a $10.9 million cap figure, and the Panthers will create $7.9 million in space by cutting him.

    LB Jon Beason

    Beason has played in five games since the Panthers made him the league’s highest-paid linebacker in 2011. And he’s lost his spot at middle linebacker to Luke Kuechly. But with $12 million in pro-rated money remaining, the Panthers would lose cap room by cutting him. Getting Beason to agree to an incentive-laden restructuring, like Thomas Davis did, would be preferred.

    RB DeAngelo Williams

    Like Beason, Williams has a lot of pro-rated money – $9.6 million, all of which would count against the Panthers’ cap if they traded him. Jonathan Stewart’s ankle issues last season showed the value of having two running backs, although there are younger and cheaper alternatives. The Panthers could designate Williams as a June 1 cut, allowing them to split the $9.6 million cap hit over the next two years.

    OT Jordan Gross

    Carolina would clear $6.7 million by cutting Gross, but they would also be left without a left tackle and one of their emotional leaders. Gross might have slipped a bit in recent years, but he’s still an above-average blocker. The Panthers talked to Gross about restructuring his deal last year; that could be an option.

    DT Ron Edwards

    The Panthers felt lucky to get 11 games out of the 33-year-old Edwards last season. Cutting Edwards frees up $2.5 million in cap space.

    LB James Anderson

    With Davis healthy and Kuechly’s emergence, Anderson’s role was diminished a bit last season. Releasing Anderson would be a wash unless the Panthers designate him as a June 1 cut and take a $2.1 million hit the next two years.

    S Haruki Nakamura

    Nakamura’s coverage meltdowns relegated him to a part-time duty last season, before he tore his groin. The Panthers could create nearly $1 million in cap room by releasing him.

    OL Garry Williams

    Williams has been a dependable backup who can play several spots up front. But is he worth the $1 million the Panthers would free up by cutting him?

    WR Armanti Edwards

    Edwards, who has a cap figure of $753,000, doesn’t make much. But until his 69-yard punt return at New Orleans in Week 17, he hadn’t shown much his first three seasons, either.

    Panthers’ Free Agents

    Unrestricted (11)

    QB Derek Anderson

    WR Louis Murphy

    TE Ben Hartsock

    TE Gary Barnidge

    G Mike Pollak

    DE Antwan Applewhite

    DT Dwan Edwards

    LB Jason Phillips

    LB Jordan Senn

    CB Captain Munnerlyn

    S Sherrod Martin

    Restricted (2)

    DT Andre Neblett

    CB Nate Ness

    Exclusive Rights (1)

    TE/FB Richie Brockel

  • More information

    Joseph Person

  • Five Possible Free Agent Targets For Panthers DT Chris Canty

    Went to high school in Charlotte and signed with Giants when Panthers GM Dave Gettleman was New York’s pro personnel director. Canty, who was cut last week, played in just nine games following offseason knee surgery, but averaged 60 tackles in four seasons in New York.

    CB Brent Grimes

    The Falcons’ sixth-year corner might be too costly for the Panthers, unless injury concerns drive down his price. Grimes missed all but one game last season with an Achilles injury.

    S Kenny Phillips

    It’s unclear whether the Giants will re-sign the 26-year-old Phillips, who missed nine games last season with what have been described as chronic knee problems. Gettleman is familiar with Phillips, the Giants’ first-round pick in 2008.

    TE Jared Cook

    Greg Olsen had the best season by a tight end in Panthers history. But Gary Barnidge and Ben Hartsock, the team’s other tight ends, are free agents. Cook is a big, athletic pass-catcher who played at South Carolina and is unhappy with his role with the Titans.

    QB Matt Moore

    With backup QB Derek Anderson a free agent and hinting that he might join Rob Chudzinski in Cleveland, Moore would be a good No. 2 behind Cam Newton. Moore is well liked in Charlotte from his three-year stint with the Panthers.

    Five Possible Draft Targets For Panthers

    The Panthers just started their draft meetings and the scouting combine is more than a week away. But given that Carolina has immediate needs in the secondary, along both lines and to a lesser extent, at receiver, here’s a very preliminary list of possible targets for the Panthers with the 14th pick.

    Kenny Vaccaro, safety, Texas

    The Panthers were set to take Alabama safety Mark Barron last year before Tampa Bay grabbed him at No. 7. After Haruki Nakamura’s inconsistent play in 2012, the Panthers still have a need. Vaccaro is big (6-1, 215), physical and makes plays (92 tackles, 2 Ints as a senior).

    Sharrif Floyd, defensive tackle, Florida

    Every year the draft experts predict the Panthers will take a defensive tackle in the first round. With Dwan Edwards eligible for free agency and Ron Edwards a possible cap casualty, this could be the year. Floyd came on strong at the end of last season. He’s nimble for a 6-3, 303-pounder, and could collapse the pocket and force QBs into the rush of DEs Greg Hardy and Charles Johnson.

    Johnthan Banks, cornerback, Mississippi State

    The Panthers drafted corner Josh Norman in the fifth round last year, but could have a huge void there in the likely event they cut Chris Gamble and don’t re-sign Captain Munnerlyn. There is a big drop-off among corners after Alabama’s Dee Milliner, but Banks appears to be the second best in a weak class.

    Lane Johnson, offensive tackle, Oklahoma

    With Jordan Gross nearing retirement, this could be a good time to draft his successor. Johnson has the same type of athleticism as Gross. He was a high school quarterback who started his Sooners’ career as a tight end. The 6-7, 303-pounder had a strong showing at the Senior Bowl.

    Cordarrelle Patterson, wide receiver, Tennessee

    After watching what Jacoby Jones did in the Super Bowl, it’s never a bad idea to have fast, elusive receivers who also return kicks and punts. Patterson, who is from Rock Hill, scored TDs by four different means last season and set an SEC single-season record with a combined kickoff and punt return average of 27.6 yards.

No one outside of Bank of America Stadium has heard much from Dave Gettleman lately.

The Carolina Panthers’ new general manager has been holed up in film and meeting rooms, watching tape and getting familiar with the team’s roster.

Don’t expect to hear much from Gettleman at the onset of the NFL’s free agency period next month, either.

Saddled with a restrictive salary cap situation stemming from the Panthers’ post-lockout spending spree two years ago, Gettleman will have to be creative in adding to the team’s roster.

Or more to the point, subtracting from it.

The Panthers are about $15 million over the reported $121.1 million salary cap. Teams must be below the cap by 4 p.m. on March 12, giving Gettleman a month to decide who stays and who goes.

League sources expect Gettleman’s first major move to be the release of veteran cornerback Chris Gamble, which would free up $7.9 million in cap space. After that the decisions get trickier, such as whether to keep both high-priced running backs or part ways with franchise rushing leader DeAngelo Williams?

Linebacker Jon Beason and offensive tackle Jordan Gross, two of the team’s captains, could be asked to restructure their contracts. And a number of other starters could be on their way out as cap victims (see list).

The good news for the Panthers is that the list of their own free agents includes only three starters – defensive tackle Dwan Edwards, cornerback Captain Munnerlyn and safety Sherrod Martin, who ended last season on injured reserve with torn knee ligaments and is not expected to be re-signed.

Gettleman, who was unavailable for comment last week, said at his introductory press conference that he planned to evaluate the roster with an unbiased eye.

“You have to do it unemotionally, you have to do it objectively. And frankly that’s next on my agenda,” Gettleman said at the press conference last month. “I’ve got a working knowledge of the club that’s certainly not enough. When it comes to the cap, the most important thing you have to do is put the proper value on the player. You get into trouble when you overpay.”

That’s the consensus on what the Panthers did in 2011, when they gave huge deals to Williams, Beason, linebacker James Anderson and safety Charles Godfrey, among others. Defensive end Charles Johnson and center Ryan Kalil have played to value of their contracts, although Kalil missed most of last season following foot surgery.

Gettleman, who spent 13 years as the New York Giants’ pro personnel director, agrees with former Panthers general manager Marty Hurney’s philosophy of building through the draft.

But Gettleman didn’t shy away from big-name free agents in New York. The Giants signed wideout Plaxico Burress, linebacker Antonio Pierce, center Shaun O’Hara and defensive tackle Chris Canty while Gettleman ran their pro personnel department.

“Getting in the unrestricted free agent market with big-ticket guys is very dicey. Again, I don’t mean to sound like a jerk, but we had success in New York with the right guys, with the research we did going through the evaluation process,” Gettleman said in January. “We didn’t miss on any big-ticket guys, but it’s dangerous and the ideal thing is exactly what Marty said. You draft, you grow, you use all the avenues to add players to your team.

“You watch the waiver wire, you inquire about trade possibilities, you take guys off the street and snag guys off someone else’s practice squad.”

The Panthers brought in a street free agent last week when they signed defensive tackle Colin Cole, who had been out of football for two years following an ankle injury. Though it was the first free agent signing by Gettleman, it did not necessarily reflect his approach.

With the cap essentially remaining flat, Gettleman said there are bargains to be found in free agency.

“There are good players out there looking for big contracts. And you can’t afford them. No one can afford them. So they take the 1-year deals,” Gettleman said. “We had success with that last year. We had (tight end) Martellus Bennett. We had (offensive tackle) Sean Locklear. There’s gold to be mined down there. You don’t have to spend a ton of cash to get a good football player.”

Good thing. The Panthers don’t have much of it.

Person: 704-358-5123

News & Observer is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service