CHARLOTTE – In his long-held role as New York Giants director of pro personnel, Dave Gettleman was renowned for his free agent recommendations, successfully targeting diamonds in the rough while steering clear of some glitzy prospects that proved to not be worth their weight in gold.
That's among the reasons the Panthers hired Gettleman as general manager two months ago, a track record he hopes to extend with the NFL's free agency period opening Tuesday.
"There's gold to be mined," Gettleman said at his introductory press conference. "There are good players out there looking for big contracts, but you can't afford them - no one can afford them - so they take one-year deals.
"You don't have to spend a ton of cash to get a good football player."
Smart spending decisions will be crucial for the Panthers personnel department, which spent significant time leading up to Tuesday's start of the new league year getting the top 51 salaries on the roster to fit under the $123 million salary cap. In the days leading up to the deadline, Carolina released cornerback Chris Gamble and defensive tackle Ron Edwards and restructured some contracts to reduce the team's cap number.
Also on Tuesday, 10 Panthers became unrestricted free agents. In addition, Carolina did not make qualifying offers to its two potential restricted free agents - defensive tackle Andre Neblett and cornerback Nate Ness. As a result, they became free agents and are free to sign with any team.
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There likely will be more moves in the coming days, aimed at putting the most competitive product possible on the field come fall.
"Roster building is a fluid, liquid situation," Gettleman said. "You have to understand that if you're not improving the bottom part of your roster, you're not improving."
Gettleman helped shore up the Giants roster around this time last year by signing offensive tackle Sean Locklear and tight end Martellus Bennett to one-year contracts.
And over the years, despite Gettleman referring to the prospect of bringing in big-ticket free agents as "very dicey" and "dangerous," the Giants did well when they did decide to open up their wallets.
Ernie Accorsi, who consulted on the Panthers' general manager search, was Giants general manager during part of Gettleman's time there as director of pro personnel.
"We basically never made an error on a major free agent - talking about unrestricted free agents, the guys you go out and pay pretty good money for," Accorsi said. "Whether it was (wide receiver) Plaxico Burress, (linebacker) Antonio Pierce, (offensive lineman) Kareem McKenzie, (offensive lineman) Shaun O'Hara - whoever it was, we hit on those guys."
Gettleman is a self-described "grinder," a skill that should come in handy for a Panthers team that re-signed potential free agents like Charles Johnson, Ryan Kalil, Jon Beason, DeAngelo Williams, Jonthan Stewart and Charles Godfrey to long-term deals over the last couple of years.
"You use all the avenues to add players to your team – you watch the waiver wire, you inquire about trade possibilities, you take guys off the street, you snag guys off someone else's practice squad," Gettleman said. "You have to build through the draft – you have to. You have to raise your own, and then you fill in with unrestricted free agents."