Gettleman has Panthers set for failure
Lets face it, the Carolina Panthers are having a miserable 2014-15 season, and we haven't reached the draft. So the question is, what is wrong with the Panthers? The answer is General Manager Dave Gettleman.
Since the conclusion of the 2013-14 season, the Panthers have lost their top four wide receivers, the left side of their offensive line and three of their top five defensive backs. In return, they have brought in two wide receivers in Jericho Cotchery and Tiquan Underwood, a safety in Roman Harper and a backup tight end in Mike McNeill.
Over the course of this free agency period, a ton of marquee players have come available, none of which were signed by the Panthers. I have been hearing a lot fans out in the general public and on social media saying the Panthers need to sign a big wide receiver. The fans are not wrong. However, the problem is the Panthers can't sign any big names. They do not have hardly any salary cap space remaining. They had one chance to sign Hakeem Nicks for a reasonable price and they failed.
Here's the problem, Gettleman felt it would be wise to place the franchise tag on Greg Hardy. For those of you who don't know what a franchise tag is, it's a one-year deal for one player on your team that's due to be a free agent. The tag keeps him from going into free agency. Each team in the NFL can use the tag on one player per year, but you do not have to use one if you so choose. Now the price of the franchise tag depends on the player's position. As a defensive end, Hardy was granted a one-year, fully guaranteed deal of about $13.116 million. That's a lot of money tied up into one player for one season.
Now don't get me wrong, Hardy is a great player and is worth spending some money on. However, losing Hardy would not have been the worst thing in the world. If Hardy had become a free agent and signed elsewhere, the Panthers would have had plenty of money to sign a solid defensive end as a replacement and a top receiver. The best thing the Panthers could have done was sign Hardy to a long-term deal to spread out his hit to the salary cap. They knew long before the season ended that he would be a free agent after the 2013-14 season. A new deal should have gotten done a long time ago. Instead, a salary cap hit of over $13 million has set the Panthers up for failure.
Hardy's contract isn't the only problem. You also have Charles Johnson with a cap hit of over $16 million. Cam Newton, Greg Olsen, Ryan Kalil and Charles Godfrey are all cap hit of over $7 million. Why are there no discussions with some of these players to re-structure contracts to spread out the cap hit? Lets not forget about the Steve Smith debacle. The Panthers are still paying Steve Smith $7 million this season, while his new team, the Baltimore Ravens, are paying him just over $2 million.
According to overthecap.com, the Panthers have an estimated $4.019 million left in salary cap space. However, about $2.5 million of that will go to rookies coming out of the draft. So for those of you hoping for Chris Johnson to sign, forget it. That's why names like Eric Decker, DeSean Jackson, Darrelle Revis and others were never in Carolina for a visit.
The Panthers top two wide receivers are now Jericho Cotchery and Tiquan Underwood. Not exactly favorable targets for Cam Newton. At least two wide receivers in the draft are a must, but not necessarily a must in the first round. The retirement of left tackle Jordan Gross has left a gaping hole in the offensive line. Offensive tackles are prized possessions in football because they protect your quarterback's blindside. A top offensive tackle should be the Panthers' first pick, followed by a wide receiver in the second round.
Will this year's draft fix all the Panthers' problems? No one can answer that question until they start playing. But for now, Gettleman has made it very difficult for the Panthers to defend its NFC South Division title.
Bryant Lilley is the sports reporter for the News-Topic. He can be reached at 828-758-7381, ext. 322 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.