Three Takeaways from Panthers GM Dave Gettleman's Thursday Press Conference
If there's one major takeaway from Carolina Panthers general manager Dave Gettleman's Thursday press conference at the NFL Scouting Combine, it is this: don't expect the Panthers to make a big splash in free agency.
As Gettleman has said throughout his tenure with the Panthers, the team is "cap challenged" and continues to dig itself out.
Under-the-radar free agent approach again this offseason?
Last offseason, Gettleman compiled a group of free agents that were not atop most teams' "most wanted" boards. Veteran defensive backs Drayton Florence, Quintin Mikell and Mike Mitchell and undrafted rookies Robert Lester and Melvin White played crucial roles in the NFL's No. 2-ranked defense.
Journeymen receivers Ted Ginn Jr. and Dominic Hixon didn't record mind-boggling numbers, but they shined when the Panthers needed it most; Ginn Jr. scored the game-winning touchdown against New England on Monday Night Football, and Hixon grabbed a waterlogged ball in the final seconds of Week 16 against New Orleans.
The two combined for 37 receptions, 611 yards and six touchdowns.
"One of the things I learned a long time ago is, a lot of time the answer is on your roster," Gettleman said at the NFL Scouting Combine. "Before you panic you have to look over your roster, trust the evaluation process, and a lot of times the answer is right there."
Communication Continues with Gross
Jordan Gross, an 11-year veteran and three-time Pro Bowler, continues to mull retirement. Gross has said he will either return next season with the Panthers or step away from the game.
Gross has started 167 games in his career, all with Carolina.
"Obviously he had a solid year, he's been a great Panther," Gettleman said. "We'll talk to him and move forward."
Gettleman said he's had two lengthy conversations with Gross and expects to talk again when the veteran tackle returns from a family trip.
"He's mulling it over in his mind,"Gettleman said. "It's a huge decision. When it comes time for you to lay it down, it's a big decision."
Hardy Headlines Free Agents Group
The Panthers have 21 players headed into free agency this offseason, but defensive end Greg Hardy is the team's top priority.
It is no secret Hardy will ask for a deal worthy of a top pass-rusher after the best season in his young career.
Hardy, also known as "The Kraken," is coming off a franchise-tying record 15 sacks and was selected to his first Pro Bowl.
One option Gettleman does have to consider is placing the franchise tag on Hardy, which will cost $12.5 million, according to the Charlotte Observer.
“He’s part of the puzzle,” Gettleman said. “We’re moving forward; we’re waiting to see where the cap number comes in, and we’ll go from there.”
In his four years with the team, Hardy has tallied 200 tackles, 33 sacks and six forced fumbles.