Transcript of Carolina Panthers general manager Marty Hurney's press conference previewing the 2010 offseason.
ON NOT PLACING THE FRANCHISE TAG ON DEFENSIVE END JULIUS PEPPERS: I talked to Carl Carey (Julius Peppers' agent) yesterday afternoon and informed them we will not put the franchise tag on Julius. Going through the decision-making process some - with the magnitude of the contract, the tender it would take to franchise him, and how it fits into the big picture with our team, we made the decision to not franchise Julius. Obviously, it's a very difficult decision because he's a tremendous player.
We go back to last year and we franchised him last year in hopes of being able to get a multi-year contract done with him. We made what I would term a very aggressive effort to do that and were not able to reach an agreement before the deadline in July. Then we couldn't talk during the year and we get to after the season.
You have to weigh - I think we've drafted very well in recent years, and we have, the makeup of our team right now, some very talented players, and their future will have to be addressed at some point. All those factors come in to play. It's a hard decision. It's one we took time on, but we just decided not to put the franchise (tag) on him.
ON WHY A $20 MILLION TENDER IS TOO MUCH THIS YEAR IF A $17 MILLION TENDER WAS NOT TOO MUCH LAST YEAR: The 17 last year, we did that in hopes of being able to reach a multi-year agreement and we weren't able to do that. Now your younger players get one step closer to having to be addressed. It's the makeup of your team. It's a balance as far as salary structure. It's trying to keep as many good players as you can. I've said before and I believe it today, Julius is an excellent player and you never want to let players like that go.
But what we have to do and what makes it so hard is that we have to deal with 53, 60-some players in mind to try to be as competitive as you can each year. The final decision just was with that number and maybe the numbers back-to-back had something to do with it as well. With that number and then having our younger players that will need to be addressed at some point, we felt the right decision was to not put the tag on him.
ON IF THE THREAT OF A POTENTIAL LOCKOUT IN 2011 PLAYED INTO THE DECISION: Not really. There are always a lot of factors. You always have one eye to the future. Certainly when there is an uncertain future it just adds another factor. I think this is more about keeping a balance on your team as far as how the makeup is. It does have a lot to do with the fact that I think we have a lot of talented, young players on this football team, and we are going to have to figure out a way to address those players. Everything comes together, and that was the decision we reached.
ON IF ANY YOUNG PLAYERS WILL BE SIGNED TO CONTRACT EXTENSIONS BEFORE A NEW COLLECTIVE BARGAINING AGREEMENT IS IN PLACE: We have conversations, but I don't know. I think that you have conversations, and there are a lot of things to figure out how things come together. At some point - whether it's now, whether it's down the road, whatever it is - I think that's definitely something we have to give a lot of attention to.
ON LOSING PEPPERS WITHOUT COMPENSATION: I haven't done a great job of explaining that because I tried to explain it all last year. When you put a franchise tag on a player, when he comes in and signs it, it's guaranteed automatically when he signs the contract. And I think the amount of the tender definitely plays into this. Until he signs that contract, you can't trade him. The rules prevent you from trading a player that is not under contract. We went through this last year, and there was a lot of talk of that. Our intentions all along were to try to do that (franchise him) to get Julius to sign a multi-year contract. With the number there, if you franchise him you have to be ready to carry him at that number.
I have dealt with Carl Carey over the last several years on this and I think the communication has been great. We said last night I have great respect for the way he's handled things and I hope that's mutual. As much as you would like to have found a solution before this point, I think we both tried to get there and we haven't been able to. We're not putting the franchise tag on him at this point and we'll go from there.
ON IF THE OFFER THE PANTHERS MADE TO PEPPERS TWO YEARS AGO IS STILL ON THE TABLE: I'm not getting into any specifics. We had negotiations last year. I never have gotten into details on contract negotiations. I don't think that helps the process and I don't want to start that now.
ON IF THERE IS ANY SCENARIO WHERE THE PANTHERS COULD RE-SIGN PEPPERS: We never say never; we always have an open mind. I will say this and I think history would indicate, when a player of Julius' caliber gets to this point, seldom does it happen that they return. Carl and I talked about this, we will always be open and we have the utmost respect for Julius. He's a valuable player. I think we have supported him and valued him in the eight years that he's been here. And I think in return he's done everything we have asked. He has been an excellent player for us and an excellent teammate and person who has made a difference in our football team.
ON IF ANY PROPOSALS WERE EXCHANGED BETWEEN THE PANTHERS AND PEPPERS SINCE LAST SUMMER: We've had communication; I'm not going to get into specifics on that. We had a lot of conversations last year, and I think we got to a point where we each knew where we were.
ON WHEN NO DEAL GOT DONE LAST SUMMER IF THAT CLOSED THE DOOR ON PEPPERS BEING WITH THE PANTHERS BEYOND LAST SEASON: As I said, we're always open. I don't think anything closes the door. We got to the end of the season and then you evaluate things. As I said earlier, some of our young players are now one step closer and have to be addressed. All that comes into play, and there are a lot of issues when you are trying to make a decision like this. Every decision you make has a lot of moving parts, but one of this magnitude has quite a bit that you have to consider.
ON THE COMMUNICATION BETWEEN THE PANTHERS AND PEPPERS: Last year there were statements made, and everybody came out and made assumptions. I think there isn't a player in the National Football League that would rather not be franchised than franchised. I have always believed that Julius has great respect for our organization and likes it here, and it's been mutual - we have great respect for him.
Carl Carey and I have had discussions on this matter for several years now. Last night he commented how good the communication has been, and I reiterated that I felt the same way about him. There are always some ups and downs when you go through something like this. But ultimately we had contact, we have had contact and I think it's just a matter right now of we're at a point where we made the decision not to franchise him.
ON IF THE PANTHERS OVERPAID PEPPERS LAST SEASON: I don't know what that means. The bottom line is to assemble the best team and the best players you can to be competitive. He certainly is an excellent player for us and makes a lot of big plays and helps us win games. You can get a group of people in a room and go through rosters, and they can all have differences of opinions - and everybody does. The bottom line is you make decision on how you can best put your team together to be as competitive as you can, not only for the current year but you always have to have an eye toward the future as well.
ON WHAT ROLE PANTHERS OWNER/FOUNDER JERRY RICHARDSON PLAYED IN THE DECISION TO NOT FRANCHISE PEPPERS: It's been the same for eight years. We always communicate. I communicate with him on everything. It's the same decision-making process we've used for eight years. John (Fox) and I talk a lot. When it comes to matters like this where it involves a lot of the financial makeup of your team for now and the future, I would say I am probably the one that has the better for that and most of it would fall on me. But we make every decision here the same and we have great communication throughout the organization.
ON IF DEFENSIVE ENDS CHARLES JOHNSON AND EVERETTE BROWN ARE READY TO BE STARTERS OR IF THE PANTHERS WILL NEED TO SIGN A VETERAN TO REPLACE PEPPERS: We think they are very good players. With that said, if we have to replace Julius, I don't think that you ever replace Julius with one player. I think that you try to make the group as strong as you can. You try to get a very strong wave in your defensive line. If you strengthen your defensive tackle position and get more push inside, maybe that helps your ends. If you have fresh guys and you have enough waves, you try to do that. We do feel strongly that Charles Johnson and Everette are two very good young players.
ON IF THE PANTHERS ARE WORKING UNDER A BUDGET THIS YEAR EVEN THOUGH THERE IS NO SALARY CAP: We have an internal budget every year. This year is no different. We have an internal budget but we always do that with the intention of being as competitive as we can. I think that we have proven that in the past, and this year is no different.
ON HOW DISAPOINTING IT IS TO LOSE PEPPERS: Today, we're just not franchising him. Losing a talented player like Julius, you never want to lose talented players. Again, you have to look at the big picture. We have a lot of talented young players as well and you want to keep as many of them together as you can.
ON IF THE PANHERS WILL TRY TO SIGN A VETERAN DEFENSIVE END IN FREE AGENCY: We're going to look at all avenues. If you look at our team in recent years, I think that we have had great success in the draft and I don't want to jinx us. Don Gregory and his college scouts and our coaches and the whole process have worked well. A large percentage of our roster is built through draft choices and rookie free agents. I think that we prefer to go that route. But with that said, I think you always look at all options. Again, kind of connected to the draft success, we have a group of young players that we really think are very good players and at some point in some way have to give attention to.
ON IF THE PANTHERS ARE CLOSE TO RE-SIGNING ANY OF THE TEAM'S EIGHT POTENTIAL UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: We'll have discussions. I have had conversations. I don't know how quickly things get done. All I know is we will give attention and try to address it. These are uncertain times, so it does make it a little bit more complicated to put all of the pieces together as far as the future goes. We will make every effort to do that.
ON IF THE TEAM IS HESITANT TO GIVE LONG-TERM CONTRACTS BECAUSE OF THE UNCERTAINTY SURROUNDING THE LEAGUE'S LABOR SITUATION: It's not that. Hesitant is the wrong word. It's difficult trying to figure out what the landscape will be, and you always want to try to do the right deals - both for the club and the player. You don't want to do a deal with a player that he's not happy with down the road either. It's just putting all the pieces together and trying to find a how to get those things accomplished. Sometimes that's difficult, but we will make every effort to do so.
ON HOW ACTIVE THE PANTHERS WILL BE IN FREE AGENCY: Over the last several years our belief and our philosophy is more toward trying to build through the draft. That's not to say you don't look at every avenue. You do that all the time. But I do believe that our philosophy is the one that works best for us. That is bringing guys in, getting them young, teaching them your way, bringing them up. They know what to expect, they know the organization, and they know what we expect of them. I think we've been able to get some good players that way and I would hope we could continue to do that.
ON WHO THE PANTHERS STARTING QUARTERBACK WILL BE IN 2010: It's the end of February. I think it's way too early to answer that. Everybody knows how we feel about Jake (Delhomme). Matt (Moore) came in and played very well at the end of the year. I think that we just go through the process and see what happens.
ON IF THE PANTHERS WILL TENDER RESTRICED FREE AGENT QUARTERBACK MATT MOORE OR TRY TO SIGN HIM TO A LONG-TERM CONTRACT: It's too early to say. The tenders have to be in next week, but we'll see.
ON WHY MOORE IS NOT BEING NAMED THE STARTING QUARTERBACK NOW: We need consistent play at quarterback. I think what we've done here is we've taken time and gone through the process on things. Competition always answers most of those questions. Our job is to win football games, and we make the decisions with that in mind - to try to win as many games as possible. I think that sometimes you let competition decide those things.
ON IF THE PANTHERS WILL CONSIDER DRAFTING A QUARTERBACK: It just depends on what happens. I think part of our success in the draft has been that we try not to reach; we try not to go in with a fixed mindset; we try to be flexible and get the best players available. All of those things will answer themselves over the next few months.
ON THE STATUS OF RUNNING BACKS JONATHAN STEWART AND DEANGELO WILLIAMS FOLLOWING OFFSEASON SURGERIES AND IF THEY WILL BE READY FOR MINICAMP: I think both of those procedures went fine. As far as whether they'll be ready minicamp or not, I really can't answer that right now because I don't know.
ON HEAD COACH JOHN FOX AND THE ASSISTANT COACHES ONLY HAVING ONE-YEAR CONTRACTS: I know John probably as well as anybody and I know our assistants and I know that will have no affect on how we perform this season. We have people with a lot of pride, and every one of them is a competitor up there. There is a business aspect to this game that we all deal with, but the bottom line is it will not affect any performance.
ON IF THE COACHES' CONTRACT STATUS WILL BE A DISTRACTION: I don't. We are all competitors, and our job is to win football games. If you live with these guys like we do, that's the one thing that comes out - the most important thing is to do whatever you can to win football games.
ON IF FOX IS UPSET THAT HE IS IN A LAMEDUCK SITUATION: I can't answer that, you would have to talk to John. But I know John well enough to know that he is a competitor and he is going to do his job the best to his ability.
ON IF THERE WILL BE AN OVERHAUL AT WIDE RECEIVER: I don't know about overhaul but I know this - that's certainly an area that we will look at. I think we have one of the best receivers in the league in Steve Smith. Any time you can get competition in areas, I think that's the best thing to do. We are going to look at strengthening all spots, and that will be one of them.
ON IF PLAYERS WILL BE RELEASED PRIOR TO FREE AGENCY AS IN YEARS PAST OR IF THAT IS NOT NECESSARY SINCE THIS SEASON IS UNCAPPED: It's got nothing to do with anything but the makeup of your football team. We have young players. Those are decisions that we talk about all the time and we're still in the process of going over those things.