INDIANAPOLIS – Dave Gettleman is still getting settled in as a first-time general manager, but he's already settled on his personal formula for building a winning NFL team.
Gettleman believes it will take players with size and savvy – and players that fit with the team's scheme – for the Panthers to succeed.
"We have shared the vision," Gettleman said Thursday at the NFL Scouting Combine. "Now we're getting everybody to understand it."
Fortunately, one very important person in the Panthers organization already is on the same page as Gettleman.
"We're of like minds," Panthers head coach Ron Rivera said. "We've been able to sit down and talk about what we think makes up a good football team and good football players.
"It was a lot of fun to hear his point of view. Obviously, he's had a lot of success being a part of the Giants. It was neat to find that we share a lot of views. It's good to know there won't be a struggle."
It's a good thing the leaders see eye-to-eye because the combine is the latest step in a daunting process leading up to next season.
As Gettleman and Rivera take a close look at the next generation of NFL players at the combine, they're doing so with the current roster in mind. The Panthers have until March 12 to get under the NFL salary cap.
"It's a big puzzle, and you have to consider every option. That's what we're doing right now," Gettleman said. "Obviously there's going to have to be some work done. Everybody knows we're over the cap, and we've got to get there. So we're spending time being as thoughtful as we can."
Gettleman understands that the short-term decisions he makes will have long-term implications, so he's considering how the moves the Panthers are pondering will affect not only this year's salary cap situation but also the situation for 2014 and 2015.
Gettleman didn't talk about many specifics Thursday, and for good reason.
"We're working towards making those decisions," he said, "and very frankly haven't made any yet."
Gettleman did acknowledge that the team is interested in bringing back defensive tackle Dwan Edwards, who is set to become an unrestricted free agent March 12, and added that the team has reached out to a few of its potential unrestricted free agents. He also didn't dismiss the possibility of retaining both running back DeAngelo Williams and running mate Jonathan Stewart despite the challenging cap situation, only saying that "decisions have to be made."
Gettleman did talk at length about how salary cap decisions would impact the business at hand in Indianapolis, with the Panthers striving to set the roster in such a way that they have ultimate flexibility when they go on the clock with the 14th overall pick in the April draft.
"The way I look at the whole picture is, free agency is the opportunity to set your draft up," he said. "You want to be in a position where you can take the best player. Nine times out of 10 you get in trouble when you draft for need. It's a problem. You can have a top 10 pick and make up your mind you're going to draft for need, and if he's not there, then what do you do?
"With the Giants, people thought we were crazy for drafting defensive ends. We drafted (Mathias) Kiwanuka and we drafted JPP (Jason Pierre-Paul), and everyone's saying, 'My God, when's it going to stop?' But if that's the best player available, you take him. Nothing like competition."
And for Gettleman, who first attended the combine in 1988 but is attending his first as a general manager, his decisions will be motivated by trying to make sure the Panthers are competitive come fall.
"Nobody is out of it in this league," he said. "The bottom line is, everybody's in play. We're all 0-0."