As free agency approaches, Panthers fans are wondering just how Dave Gettleman will work to address team needs this offseason. Gettleman has stated, in the past, that he uses free agency to set up the draft. He’s also been a perennial cheapskate in free agency. To be fair, Gettleman hasn’t had much to work with since he became Carolina’s general manager in 2013. The Panthers were in “cap hell,” Gettleman described when he took over, leaving Carolina shopping at the Dollar Store his first two years as GM.
As he negotiated those troubled years, made the tough cuts, and shopped the bargain bins, Gettleman remarkably pieced together formidable rosters in 2013 and 15 will little resources. In 2013 Carolina had only 9 million in cap space to maneuver free agency. The following year, jumped to 15 million, but the Panthers had 22 players hitting free agency. It was a tough year where Cam Newton suffered a fractured back in a car accident, Byron Bell was abused at left tackle, and the ball just seemed to always bounce the wrong way. Carolina dropped from 12-4 in 2013 to finish a disappointing 7-8-1 in 2014.
The Bell experiment was a failure, but most saw it as a nearly unmanageable situation for Gettleman. There were just too many holes and not enough cash to plug them. In 2015, Gettleman announced, Carolina wouldn’t be regulated to shopping at the Dollar Store, however. He cautioned not to expect Nordstrom, but Carolina wasn’t in the “cap hell” they had been in before. He then proceeded to shop at the Dollar General, leaving fans disappointed in the lack offseason movement. There weren’t any big-ticket acquisitions, but Gettleman did find bargains like Michael Oher, Peanut Tillman, and Kurt Coleman.The team ended up going 15-1, and Gettleman looked like one of those ladies making out like a bandit on Extreme Couponing.
Much like 2014, Carolina fell off a cliff in 2016. Again, another offseason passed where Carolina was hardly active in free agency.The biggest story line was the drama-laden departure of Josh Norman. Carolina surprisingly rescinded the franchise tag and then stumbled awkwardly through the offseason trying to patch the self-inflicted injury.
Few thought Carolina would replicate their historic run to the Super Bowl, but few but the drop was devastating. No one has been immune to criticism. Gettleman, to many, was the one responsible. Carolina had 29m in cap money to spend, but Carolina again had been a frugal spender. His “methodical” and “intentional” approach, which he bragged had been “kind of working,“ imploded because of a porous offensive line and an inexperienced secondary.
Dave Gettleman has the most he’s ever had to work with going into 2017. Carolina has estimated $47m in cap space according to OvertheCap.com. The figure appears to estimate the cap space increase to be announced by the NFL later this month and rollover money from the previous season. Some believe the figure could increase to as high as 57 million after Carolina finalizes contracts before the new calendar season begins. Either way, there’s some cash burning a hole in Carolina’s pocket.
Carolina doesn't have a lot of offseason contractual obligations either. Tedd Ginn, Jr and Mario Addison are two of the more important decisions the Panthers will have to make. The biggest story, however, remains Kawann Short, who is slated to become an unrestricted free agent. Gettleman has the option of franchising Short for about 14.5 million this season. It’s a likely scenario and one that would have a larger cap hit in the first year than if Gettleman chose to sign him to a long-term deal. Carolina would still be left with over 30 million to spend.
It’s been up and down for Dave Gettleman and the Panthers the last few years. The till isn’t running short this, so neither should the excuses.
What type of offseason action to you expect?
By the Professor, aka Tony Dunn
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