Former Carolina Panthers linebacker Jon Beason was the first big-name player sent packing by general manager Dave Gettleman, before Steve Smith, DeAngelo Williams or Josh Norman were shown the door.
Beason said it was a smart business decision by Gettleman to make the 2013 trade that sent him to the Giants for a seventh-round draft pick – although Beason wasn’t thrilled with some of his conversations with Gettleman that preceded the deal.
But Beason was much harsher in ripping Gettleman for blowing up the current team’s secondary and, in so doing, their chances of returning to the Super Bowl.
“You were primed to win. You’re not in the rebuild stage,” Beason said Thursday in a telephone interview. “It’s unacceptable. At some point you say, well maybe you roll the dice. But it didn’t add up to a competitive season.”
Beason retired in February after nine NFL seasons and took a job as an analyst with cbssports.com. The job allowed Beason to stay in Miami with his 11-month-old daughter and “speak freely” on topics he’d stayed mum on while still playing.
Beason had plenty to say about the direction of the Panthers, who have gone from 15-1 last season to 1-5 this year despite the return of 18 starters.
Now it seems like they’re in this complete – you can call it a rebuild. At 1-5 you’re probably doomed.
Former Panthers linebacker turned NFL analyst Jon Beason
Three of the four missing starters were in the secondary – including the aforementioned Norman, who signed with Washington days after the Panthers rescinded his $14 million franchise tag.
Gettleman has said stalled contract talks were the primary reason he pulled the tag – a jarring and seldom-used tactic in the NFL. The Philadelphia Eagles are believed to be the last team to rescind a franchise tag, doing so with linebacker Jeremiah Trotter in 2002 and defensive tackle Corey Simon in 2005.
“Every single player that gets franchise-tagged does not want to be tagged. And when you allow a guy to walk out of the building for nothing and you rescind the franchise tag, it doesn’t happen,” Beason said. “I don’t care how disgruntled a player is. You tag them, they don’t show up during the offseason. Guess what, when it comes time for camp, they’re there. You have their services. Because that’s the business part of it. ...
“But if you don’t think he’s worth the money or whatever, and let him walk out, address it in free agency. Address it in the draft early. Get some value for him. And then don’t go out there with guys who have no experience.”
‘You can call it a rebuild’
The Panthers drafted three cornerbacks a week after letting Norman walk, beginning with former Samford standout James Bradberry in the second round.
But the combination of a limp pass rush with a youthful and banged-up corner group has been disastrous. In a 15-day span, the Panthers became the only team since the 1970 merger to allow two quarterbacks (Atlanta’s Matt Ryan and New Orleans’ Drew Brees) to throw for 450 yards in the same season.
Beason spent seven seasons with Carolina after the Panthers drafted him in the first round in 2007. He went to three Pro Bowls and is fourth on the Panthers’ all-time tackles list with 701.
He remains close with a number of players and was in Santa Clara, Calif. in February to cheer on his former teammates in Super Bowl 50.
Beason says he feels bad for veterans Greg Olsen, Ryan Kalil, Thomas Davis, Charles Johnson, Jonathan Stewart and Luke Kuechly because the team seemed to be on the verge of a championship.
“I just feel like in that situation management has kind of left them out to dry. You thought it would pan out,” he said. “Cam (Newton) has been nicked. Stewy’s been nicked. It’s just sad because I really want to see those older guys get back there and get it done.
“Now it seems like they’re in this complete – you can call it a rebuild. At 1-5 you’re probably doomed.”
‘It’s hard to watch’
Beason has enjoyed his work with CBS’ online and digital divisions, located in Fort Lauderdale about 40 minutes from Beason’s home. He drives to the studio three days a week for live shows and tapings.
Beason, who was media-friendly as a player, says he preps for shows in much the same way he did while breaking down offenses during film study.
Beason’s new job means he’ll be following the Panthers from afar. He’s shocked at how fast and far they’ve fallen.
“A team with two MVPs on it?” he said, referring to Newton and Kuechly. “I think you’d be hard-pressed to find another team not doing so well with those caliber of players on the team.”
He’d like to see the Panthers turn things around, but doesn’t sound optimistic.
“Those are my guys, man. I want to see them do well,” Beason said. “It’s hard. It’s hard to watch.”