This is the time of year where sports fans are preparing for March Madness. However, the madness is taking on a whole new meaning for the Carolina Panthers. The NFL free agency period is nearly a week old and the only notable signing has been safety Roman Harper. Aside from making under-the-radar deals with backup quarterback Derek Anderson and tight end Mike McNeil, the 2014 offseason has been very quiet for a team that appears to be losing players rather than gaining them.
After Brandon LaFell signed with the New England Patriots on Saturday, Carolina is now without any wide receiver who caught a pass from Cam Newton in 2013. In fact, the only player on the current roster to have a reception is Kealoha Pilares. He only has two catches for 42 yards after 20 professional games.
The lack of offensive weapons has even drawn the attention of running back DeAngelo Williams, who made an interesting quip about him and teammate Jonathan Stewart concerning their fantasy football value.
Well looking at things as they stand Jonathan and I will be high fantasy draft picks — DeAngelo Williams (@DeAngeloRB) March 16, 2014
General manager Dave Gettleman has caught the ire of the Carolina fanbase, which is becoming increasingly impatient with each passing day. It's hard to blame them. After one week, the Panthers have failed to resign any of their key players from last season. Captain Munnerlyn, Mike Mitchell, Brandon LaFell, Ted Ginn, Jr. and Domenik Hixon have all signed elsewhere.
Until recently, it appeared their departures for new teams were a product of earning more money than they would from the cash-strapped Panthers. Now, it seems like there is something going on in Carolina that is not sitting well with the players.
This could unfortunately be very telling of why it seems like nobody wants to sign with CAR. pic.twitter.com/CcZlsqZWje— Car Panthers News (@CarPanthersNews) March 16, 2014
The tweet has since been deleted, but Doug Baldwin's question to Munnerlyn and his subsequent answer should raise both eyebrows and concerns among the Carolina fans.
What is going on in the organization?
Is it possible that Gettleman has created an environment within the team that is producing negative vibes with players on the team and the free agent market? It seems plausible, especially when it seemed that wide receiver Hakeem Nicks would sign with the Panthers only to sign with Indianapolis because they were a “better fit."
ESPN's David Newton highlighted multiple gaffes made by the general manager so far this offseason. The list is less than complimentary, although he does offer some insight as to why such moves were made or in this case not made.
Let's not forget that Gettleman is responsible for the unceremonious departure of the team's all-time receiving leader, Steve Smith. Now, the Panthers are in a position where they will have to make the most out of what is left in the market. Thus far, early observations suggest that Gettleman's gamble on this year's market has failed.
Carolina needs at least two veteran wide receivers and a veteran offensive tackle. The need for the former should have the front office targeting James Jones, but if he is unable to be brought in, the Panthers are going to be in trouble.
It's one thing to rebuild a team with players who can make an impact out of college. However, it helps to have a veteran presence to help mentor and mold them into contributing players. Carolina lacks that kind of leadership. Regardless of who is drafted, it's unlikely the team can be successful on just the strength of the defense.
The environment Gettleman seems to be creating is one that will be a trial-by-fire for the incoming rookies.
If there is turmoil inside the Carolina franchise, what will that mean for the future of Cam Newton? On one hand, he has said all the right things and put fans at ease about his future with the team. Then again, Munnerlyn said the same thing and he is now with Minnesota.
Could the atmosphere Gettleman is creating really be bad enough to force Newton out of town? He has yet to sign an extension and the team does hold an option for a fifth year. What happens after the 2015 season? To lose a gifted quarterback like Newton would only set the Panthers back and it could ultimately cost some people their jobs.
Those jobs, of course, are in the front office.
Owner Jerry Richardson has been very quiet on his team's offseason strategy, but an explanation may be needed to explain the actions of his general manager. Those most interested are the personal seat license (PSL) holders.
It's not surprising to see an exodus of players for other teams or even more money. The success and contributions made during a 12-4 run will do that. However, what is taking place in Carolina seems to be unprecedented.
Carolina cannot afford to lose appeal to free agents (although an argument can be made that it has) the rest of the way. The same goes for current players on the team. But, if Gettleman's way of doing things causes the team to implode, he will most certainly be out of a job.
There is little doubt the Carolina Panthers are being beat in the market. But if they continue at the current pace, the team will be beat on the field as well. Unfortunately, all that can be done is to sit and wait to see what happens.
Panthers fans, you can sit and wait to see what happens alongside me on Twitter.
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