Do you see "G-man" making a big splash in free agency or possible trades in the draft? I think our needs are strong safety, cornerback, defensive end and offensive tackle. – Doc in High Point, N.C.
"Substance is more important than splash," general manager Dave Gettleman told me around this time a year ago. "I've seen plenty of teams win the Super Bowl in March; the idea is to win the Super Bowl in February. That's the goal."
The Panthers nearly won the Super Bowl in February without making what many would consider a "splash" last offseason – defined as a big-money signing of a big-name player. Fans looking for a shiny new toy probably don't like hearing this, but Gettleman pointed out at last week's NFL Scouting Combine that the Panthers did make a splash of sorts last offseason.
"We shopped at Tiffany's last year. TD, Greg, Luke and Cam - that cost more than a bag of doughnuts," Gettleman said, referencing offseason contract extensions for Thomas Davis, Greg Olsen, Luke Kuechly and Cam Newton.
This offseason could potentially bring similar deals for the likes of Josh Norman – who was franchise-tagged Tuesday – and perhaps someone like Kawann Short, who is entering the final year of his rookie contract. Gettleman doesn't have a history of spending big on other teams' free agents but he does have a history of hitting on them big, like with Michael Oher and Ted Ginn, Jr. last year.
More likely than a free agent "splash" is a draft day trade. Gettleman made two of those last year.
"We entered the draft last year with nine picks, and we felt very strongly that we had a good club. So you get into the conversation of, 'Why draft nine guys to cut 'em?' Not all nine were going to make the club," Gettleman said. "So because of concerns on my part and because of who was available, we traded up twice with two lower picks."
To summarize, Gettleman's history is to avoid splashes in free agency while splashing away in the draft. Past results, however, don't guarantee future acts.
"Now, you can't put that trade concept in a box," Gettleman said.
After the offensive line collapse in the Super Bowl, what are the odds of drafting a tackle in the draft while keeping the "best player available" mentality? – Tory in Sioux Falls, S.D.
The odds, technically, aren't that good because the Panthers plan to take the best player available at No. 30 but there are probably less than a half-dozen tackles worthy of first-round selection. Add to it that Gettleman has previously passed late in the first round on offensive tackles that many draft analysts viewed worthy of selection, and the odds go further down. Franchise history tells a similar tale, with the Panthers having selected an offensive tackle in the first round just twice in their 21 previous drafts.
In addition, did the offensive line really "collapse" in the Super Bowl? The Broncos' defense played its best football and the Panthers' offensive line – but also the Panthers on the whole – didn't put its best foot forward. After the season, Gettleman adamantly defended the job Mike Remmers has done at right tackle, and Gettleman is no longer questioned about his decision to entrust left tackle to Oher.
But, even with all that said, the Panthers will pick an offensive tackle in the first round if he's deemed to best player available. Few general managers – and certainly not Gettleman – shy away from drafting quality linemen, and the Panthers are in good enough shape up and down their roster to easily avoid any temptation to reach by making a pick based on position need.
Bryan, I was wondering how J.J. Jansen and others around the league are able to re-sign with their current clubs before the period between March 7-9? I thought unrestricted free agents couldn't enter negotiations with their current clubs until this exclusive period. – Jason in Roanoke Rapids, N.C.
The Panthers signed their longtime long snapper, a potential unrestricted free agent, to a five-year contract on Feb. 17. The significance of March 7-9 is that teams can negotiate with the agents of potential unrestricted free agents who played for other teams in 2015 – players they can sign beginning March 9 when the new league year begins and brings free agency with it.
On the other hand, teams are allowed to negotiate with and sign their own potential free agents at any point, so it's entirely possible that the Panthers will re-sign one or more such players before March 9 and could do the same after March 9 as well.