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Dismissal marks new era for Edwards, Panthers

By Tom Sorensen
Tom Sorensen
Tom Sorensen has been a columnist at The Observer for 20 years and has been at the paper for 25, writing about nearly every sport in the Carolinas.

Armanti Edwards was not merely Armanti Edwards. He was the Legend of Armanti Edwards.

He was a folk hero/two-time national champion quarterback at Appalachian State. He will forever be one of the most controversial draft picks in Carolina Panthers history. And on an otherwise pretty 69-yard punt return, he was tackled by a punter.

Now he’s a former legend. He’s also a former Panther. In a statement move, general manager Dave Gettleman cut him Tuesday. It was a statement because why else would you cut him?

Middle linebacker Jon Beason, a Panthers lifer, went to the New York Giants last week for a late pick that’s likely contingent on how big a role he plays.

Now Armanti, also a Panther lifer, goes – to another NFL team or the Canadian Football League or home.

Beason asked to be traded, the Panthers said. They did not say that Armanti asked to be released.

Gettlemen undoubtedly has a relatively free hand and is entitled to. What the Panthers have doesn’t work. If it worked, they wouldn’t be 1-3. If it worked, they wouldn’t be a team that watches the playoffs on TV. If it worked, they wouldn’t lose September and October and spend the rest of the season attempting to catch up.

One of Carolina’s hallmarks has been loyalty. Whether it was often-injured linebacker Dan Morgan or often-injured running back Jonathan Stewart, whether it was linebacker Beason or receiver Armanti, the Panthers stuck with players they drafted and often rewarded them with bountiful contracts.

Most fans condemn Carolina’s loyalty. Of course, these same fans wish their employers were Panthers loyal to them.

Because the old way doesn’t work, Gettleman is the new way. He started slowly in this, his first season as a GM anywhere. He didn’t run anybody off from the staff of Marty Hurney, the general manager who preceded him. He didn’t bring in any of his people.

But he quietly moved money around to get the Panthers under the salary cap. And now he’s not so quietly moving players.

There’s no way Gettleman would make moves simply to make moves. Fans desperate for a reason to get excited might be thrilled. But there has to be purpose.

So if you check your phone every 15 minutes to see if the Panthers traded Steve Smith to New England or Cam Newton to Jacksonville, you probably should hang up, walk up the basement stairs and get some fresh air.

I don’t know what Carolina’s next move will be, although a victory against Minnesota would be nice.

But before we bury Armanti, let’s praise him.

His sole crime was being acquired in a trade with New England. The Panthers gave up their second-round pick in 2011 so they could take him in the third round of 2010. Since then Armanti has slowly made the transition from folk hero/quarterback to NFL receiver.

And this summer the transition was flying. Receivers coach Ricky Proehl praised Armanti at mini-camp, and if Proehl says it, Proehl means it.

In early August I sat with head coach Ron Rivera at an outdoor table overlooking the practice fields in Spartanburg. I asked who the most valuable player of training camp had been, and without hesitating he said, “Armanti Edwards.”

Armanti was going to make a run at being the team’s No. 3 receiver. Then Armanti got hurt and Ted Ginn Jr. emerged and the Panthers lost three of their first four games and – see you.

I know I’m in the minority here. But I’m not writing this to be different, or because the majority is a safe and often boring place to be.

Armanti has NFL talent. Maybe the Denver Broncos will pick him up – OK, I got carried away. But he’s 25. He’s made progress. I predict his NFL career will continue.

Somebody will give him an opportunity – not that the Panthers didn’t.

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