First, Carolina Panthers wide receiver Ted Ginn Jr. will welcome a baby girl into the world shortly into the offseason.
Then, he hopes to get a deal done with the Panthers.
“I mean, I’m a Panther ’til I ain’t a Panther no more,” he quipped while tossing shoes into a large cardboard box on the team’s exit/locker clean-out day Monday.
“I mean, that’s why I have a team, that’s why I have an agent. I let them handle that side. I did my part,” he said.
By “his part” he means his production in 2016. Ginn had 54 catches for 752 yards as the third-most-used target of quarterback Cam Newton in yards and catches.
By “his agent’s part,” he means negotiations for a new contract this offseason. A free agent at age 30, he could be a bargain for the Panthers, who are trying to “evolve” their offense with players who can get off the line of scrimmage quickly.
“I feel good. Fast as ever,” he said.
Ginn wants to remain in Carolina after he signed a two-year, $4.2 million deal in 2015, which followed a brief and unsuccessful stint in Arizona.
“I came back, why leave?” he said. “They treat us like men. They treat us like family. And that means a lot when you’re out here and you’re playing this game. And then you go on to (coach Ron) Rivera, and the type of leadership he has and it fits my coaching.
“As long as you buy in, man, you’ll be seen as being whatever you want to be. That’s what it is around here, man. You can be yourself, be who you are.”
General manager Dave Gettleman and his staff have decisions to make regarding a few priority free agents. Among those are defensive end Mario Addison, who led the team in sacks in 2016 despite missing time with a foot injury, and defensive tackle Kawann Short, who said Monday he’d “most likely” sign a franchise tag if it were offered.
“A lot of guys are priorities,” Rivera said. “When it comes to the contracts and stuff like that, we’ll let Dave (Gettleman) and stuff handle that.”
What about offensive lineman Mike Remmers?
The right tackle had to switch to the left side after starting left tackle Michael Oher was stuck in the concussion protocol. Oher said last week he plans to return in 2017, while Remmers is a free agent.
Remmers was serviceable playing out of his normal position when the Panthers were just about out of other options.
“I learned a lot going to left tackle and had a little transitioning phase there,” he said. “I feel like I’ve improved a lot since the first game I played at left tackle. My goal is just to continue getting better.
“I love it here. I don’t want to go anywhere else. I have to do what’s right for my family and myself, but we’ll see what happens. I really hope it’s here, though.”
On defense, linebacker A.J. Klein had to step up after starter Luke Kuechly entered the concussion protocol in November and missed the rest of the season.
Klein took the lion’s share of the reps in the middle in place of Kuechly, to the speculation of some that the free agent hoped to play well enough to earn a starting spot elsewhere.
“I wouldn’t say that,” he told reporters Monday morning. “My goal is to play for a championship team, and I think that could happen here.”
Defensive end Charles Johnson spent the last third of the season with a hamstring injury and plantar fasciitis, but though his “team-friendly” one-year deal (worth $3 million and signed in 2016 a week after the Panthers cut him for cost reasons) is up, he wants to return.
“They already cut me once,” he said, laughing. “So what do you want? Am I gonna go through it again?
“I want to be here. It’s all I know, is Carolina, and hopefully it stays that way.”
Nickel Leonard Johnson came in halfway through the season after recovering from Achilles tendon surgery (the Panthers signed him during the summer to a one-year deal) and got the most nostalgic of the bunch when discussing his hopes for the 2017 season.
He provided an instant spark when Carolina needed it badly after the bye week, but saw the field less after getting rushed to the hospital with a chest injury and sprained AC joint in the Panthers’ “Thursday Night Football” game in November.
“I felt at home, man. I feel at home. Hopefully I can come back for a couple years, but that’s out of my hands,” he said. “Got a lot of good feedback from my exit physical from my position coach. … I love these guys. … If I ever get married, I’m gonna have all the defensive backs from this team in my wedding.”
Johnson, a close friend with Panthers quarterback Cam Newton, said he asked the 2015 MVP “how big his voice was” with the front office on Sunday night at dinner after Carolina’s season finale.
“I don’t know if he’s got influence on it,” he said, jokingly. “I know my tape does.”
Panthers 2017 free agents
Unrestricted free agents (15)
DT Kawann Short
DT Kyle Love
DE Charles Johnson
DE Mario Addison
DE Wes Horton
LB A.J. Klein
CB Teddy Williams
CB Leonard Johnson
S Michael Griffin
S Colin Jones
OT Mike Remmers
OL Ryan Wendell
OL Chris Scott
RB Fozzy Whittaker
WR Ted Ginn
Restricted free agents (5)
G Andrew Norwell
WR Philly Brown
WR Brenton Bersin
WR LaRon Byrd
LB Ben Jacobs