Panthers Nowhere to be Seen in Early Free Agency

The NFL "league year" officially began yesterday and a handful of players just got a whole lot richer. It happens every year as teams either look to the start of free agency for plugging a hole or two to the other end of the spectrum: throwing good money after bad management.

Carolina Panthers GM Dave Gettleman hasn't been known as one to dump suitcases full of cash on tables for anybody. All of his "big money signees" have gone to home-grown talent like Cam Newton and Luke Kuechly while he's used the transition and franchise tags judiciously on players like Greg Hardy (whew!) and, most recently, with CB Josh Norman. Next year it's Kawann Short's turn.

At first, the reason was obvious -- there was no money to dump -- as Gettleman was hired to be a voice of reason through Marty Hurney's Salary Cap Hell. Hurney had brought it on himself, doing exactly that which the more desperate GMs are doing today. He didn't last and the GMs doing the money-throwing probably won't, either.

However, now that Gettleman does have some good salary cap room to work with, he's still up to his old ways...he actually cut Charles "Big Money" Johnson, allowing his salary to be kicked off the books, then re-signed him later. I'm not privy to all the numeric details, but it was obviously done for "big money" reasons. The result is the Panthers have the same player and a lot more salary cap space as CJ's play declined last season as I feared it might because of the wear on his body over the years.

No, the Panthers organization has done nothing but rise since Ron Rivera arrived. Gettleman was brought aboard the following year, and the two men have worked together seemingly seamlessly especially considering the fact that most GMs want to have "their guy" coaching. I'm thinking Gettleman knew of Rivera already through the years while the two were with other NFC teams -- Rivera played then coached in Chicago while Gettleman's a New Yorker -- and when they began working together in a warmer climate, they probably both realized "hey, that other guy's sharp as a tack" and have been happy for the other's presence.

Working together is the key here. It's obvious by now that Gettleman works as much for Ron as Ron does for him. It's sort of a symbiotic relationship. Each guy makes the other one look good and as long as that goes on, the Carolina Panthers will be contending for at least the NFC South crown every season.

Without breaking the bank.

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