CHARLOTTE – A major theme this Panthers’ offseason has been patience. Marty Hurney's had a ton of it.
As the initial dominoes of free agency fell, he watched. Then he found value while bringing aboard center Matt Paradis, outside linebacker/defensive end Bruce Irvin and wide receiver Chris Hogan. He also waited for offensive tackle Daryl Williams and defensive Kyle Love to test the open market before they came back to Carolina.
But Friday night was go time.
“The run on tackles didn’t stop from last night,” said Hurney, who very much wanted to leave this NFL Draft with a left tackle.
Four tackles (Jonah Williams, Andre Dillard, Tytus Howard and Caleb McGary) were taken during Thursday night’s first round. All but McGary could play on the left side. Then, three picks into Friday night’s second round, Jacksonville snagged Jawaan Taylor, who’s a better fit on the right side. But Hurney couldn’t wait any longer.
The Panthers had a first-round grade on Greg Little, who Hurney believed was the best left tackle left on the board. So he traded up 10 spots with Seattle to get him at No. 37.
“We didn't think he had any chance to get to us (at No. 47),” Hurney said. “We had a chance to get a guy at a premier position that can come in and compete for playing time immediately and we think he has all the skills to be our starting left tackle for a long time.
“There's times to be patient, then there's times you just get the feeling you better make a move.”
That feeling was right. The run on tackles continued with the Bills trading up to take Cody Ford at No. 38 and the Broncos making Dalton Risner pick No. 41, so it was highly unlikely Little was lasting six more spots.
The move cost Hurney his first of two third-round picks – the 77th overall selection – to get his guy. But clearly, the general manager whose patience has been a virtue for the past six weeks felt the investment was a no-brainer.
“Left tackles are going to go and they're extremely valuable. And we really liked Greg's skill set,” Hurney said. “We just thought if we didn't make this move, we didn't feel good about our chances of getting him.”
And now the Panthers have increased their chances of having better fits on their offensive line.
Before Friday night, their top two options at left tackle were natural right tackles Taylor Moton and Daryl Williams. Head coach Ron Rivera stressed Little hasn’t won anything yet, but best case scenario is he’ll earn the left tackle job. That would leave the right side to Moton or Williams while the other slides in at left guard.
“This gives us an opportunity to move guys around and find out what the best fit is,” Rivera said. “We're going to compete. We've got a lot of good pieces. We've got to figure out how exactly they fit for us now.”
It’s tempting to try to start predicting how the line will ultimately look come Week 1. But remember, that’s still four and a half months away. And because they now have a natural left tackle, the Panthers can be patient while things sort themselves out this spring and summer.
“The reasonings to go out and get (Little) was exactly what Marty said: When you have tackles flying off the board, they're going to go fast,” Rivera said. “To get a quality one, you've got to be willing to do what we did, and I really appreciate the decision that was made and Marty pulling the trigger.”