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Carolina Panthers

Dan Morgan wants to build through draft, "dominate" at the line of scrimmage

Dan Morgan

ORLANDO, Fla. — Panthers general manager Dan Morgan knew this had to be a busy free agency period. 

In an ideal world, it wouldn't need to be nearly this busy in the future.

While they've been aggressive in the last two weeks (11 new free agents and a trade for a top receiver), he's hoping to build the roster to the point where they're taking care of their own players rather than other people's.

"I'm not going to compare myself to what's happened in the past; I can just tell you how it's going to be moving forward," Morgan said during a teleconference with reporters Monday from the league's annual spring meeting. "We are going to build this thing through the draft, draft and develop our own talent, and hopefully, they pan out, and we can extend them and keep our own.

"But that's the plan as of now and then obviously, supplementing in free agency. . . . But yeah, we're going to build this thing the right way, which I feel is through the draft."

He's going to have a chance to prove it soon, as Morgan mentioned positive discussions on a contract extension for defensive tackle Derrick Brown, who is coming off his first Pro Bowl, and is in the option year of his rookie deal.

"I'm not going to put any timetable on it; we have had some good discussions with his agent," Morgan said. "But as of right now, we're working through that, and hopefully, it ends up working out at the end, which I think it will."

That would be welcome news, especially after the "tough decision" to trade 2019 first-rounder Brian Burns to the Giants earlier this offseason. Morgan said the balance of the cap room gained ($24 million) and picks acquired (the 39th overall pick and a pair of fifth-rounders) made it a difficult but necessary part of this offseason makeover.

"You know, those are always difficult conversations and, and decisions that you have to make from the seat that I'm in," he said. "We love Brian. The player he is, the person he is, but sometimes you've got to make tough decisions, and the salary cap along with draft capital that we got, we felt like it was, you know, time to pull the trigger and make a move.

"We felt like the timing was right. And yeah, those are always tough decisions, but we had to make it, and we feel OK about it."

Derrick Brown

Morgan didn't elaborate on the next moves, as he mentioned ongoing conversations with several free agents (including Jadeveon Clowney) and said they hadn't made a final decision on cornerback Jaycee Horn's fifth-year option (which would have to be picked up after the draft). 

"We obviously think very highly of Jaycee and the player that he is; I think he's one of the better corners in the NFL," Morgan said. "He's had some unfortunate injuries that are kind of out of his hands, but we love Jaycee and the player and the person that he is."

Mostly, Morgan emphasized the need to strengthen both lines this offseason. From investing heavily in guards (the additions of Robert Hunt and Damien Lewis allowed them to move Austin Corbett to center) to signing defensive tackle A'Shawn Robinson to pair up front with Brown, the message was clear.

"We want to be able to dominate both sides of the ball at the line of scrimmage, and I think that's what it takes to win in this league," Morgan said. "We obviously didn't do that well enough last year on the offensive side of the ball, and bringing those two guys in, moving Corbett to center, adding those pieces. Obviously, we love those guys, and we feel good.

"But we've got to go prove it on the field now."

Bryce Young

There was one other drafted player who came up several times, as Morgan said the offseason was also designed to help maximize quarterback Bryce Young in his second year.

"We just want Bryce Young to be the best version of himself," Morgan said. "Not try to be anybody else or live up to my expectations or anybody else's expectations because the Bryce Young that I scouted in college and saw glimpses of last year, I know the type of player he is. But he's not going to do it all by himself. It takes all 11 guys and more to execute this offense and execute it at a high level. I know that he can.

"So it's a team effort, all three phases, they all got to play together. It's not just going to be on Bryce. Everybody's got to play together and that's what team football is about and that's what we're going to be about."

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