Panthers first-year general manager Dave Gettleman had a busy Friday.
Gettleman, hired in January to succeed Marty Hurney, put the finishing touches on a contract restructuring for tight end Greg Olsen and released veteran defensive tackle Ron Edwards before jetting to New Jersey to visit his family, which has yet to relocate to Charlotte.
But Gettleman is just getting started.
With the Panthers still an approximate $3.5 million over the $123 million salary cap, Gettleman has at least one more move to make to get under the cap by the March 12 deadline. He then will begin shaping the roster, although the former Giants pro personnel director lacks the cap room to make too big a splash in his first free agency as a GM.
A look at five moves the Panthers should make before next month’s NFL draft:
Cut Chris Gamble
Gamble is the team’s third-longest tenured player and best cornerback. But he’s due to make $7.9 million this year – a big number for an aging player who has spent a lot of time in the training room in two of the past three seasons. Gettleman seems to be in no hurry to release Gamble, perhaps waiting to see if a team calls with a trade offer. But Gamble’s price tag likely will make that a non-starter.
Re-sign Dwan Edwards
The Panthers want Edwards back; Edwards told the Observer last week he’d like to return to Charlotte. Carolina should be able to get a deal done with Edwards, whose six sacks in 2012 were the most by a Panthers defensive tackle since Kris Jenkins’ seven in 2002. Edwards was a bargain last year at $1.5 million after Buffalo cut him before the start of the regular season. He won’t come that cheap, but he’s a priority among the team’s 11 unrestricted free agents, particularly after the release of Ron Edwards.
Keep backup quarterback Derek Anderson
Panthers coach Ron Rivera demonstrated how much he values offensive continuity when he elevated quarterback coach Mike Shula to coordinator after Rob Chudzinski became Cleveland’s coach. With Cam Newton’s durability, Anderson’s reps have been limited the past two seasons. But he moved the offense efficiently when Newton was out several plays at New Orleans in Week 17 last year. Chudzinski could sell Anderson on the possibility of competing for a starting spot with Brandon Weeden. But Anderson ripped Browns fans after his four-year stint in Cleveland, calling them “ruthless,” and saying they didn’t deserve a winner. He’d be more welcome in Charlotte, where he’s worked well with Newton and Shula.
Sign a veteran corner
With Gamble on the way out, the Panthers would like to re-sign free agent Captain Munnerlyn. But Munnerlyn – a sure tackler and a solid nickel corner – could get offers that are too pricey for the Panthers to match. There is a glut of big-name corners available, including Dunta Robinson, Charles Woodson and William Gay. Gettleman likely will wait for the market to come down, and grab a veteran to pair with young corners Josh Thomas, Josh Norman and James Dockery. Alabama’s Dee Milliner looks to be the only premiere corner in the draft, so this is a need that would be best addressed in free agency.
Grab a young Giants receiver
Given his ties to the organization, expect Gettleman to bring in a couple of former Giants. New York has a pair of free agent wideouts who are 28 or younger – Domenik Hixon and Ramses Barden. Hixon has more experience and has been productive in a part-time role. But the 6-foot-6, 224-pound Barden is the type of big, physical receiver who could thrive in the Panthers’ vertical passing game. The Panthers know Barden well: With Hixon and former UNC star Hakeem Nicks out for a Thursday night game in Charlotte last September, Barden made his only career start and dominated the Carolina secondary. Barden had nine catches for 138 yards, but only had four receptions the remainder of the season. He said last week he’s ready for a fresh start.