The outlook for Panthers left tackle Michael Oher looks bleaker by the day.
Oher entered the NFL’s concussion protocol in September. He is still in it, six months later.
Panthers general manager Dave Gettleman confirmed that on Wednesday, during his podium session at the NFL Combine.
“You can’t deny what’s going on,” said Gettleman. “We’re in the unknown. And we’re going to move forward. We’ve got a plan and we’ll just see where it goes. I can’t give you anything more than that.”
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Oher was signed to a three-year, $21.6 million contract in 2016. He is guaranteed $9.5 million of that money, and played just two games of that extension.
Teammate Trai Turner was confident in late December that Oher would be back in 2017, but two months later, the Oher’s window is shrinking. To cloud matters further, if the Panthers cut him it will cost them an estimated $6 million in dead money.
What does this mean for the Carolina?
It’s unlikely the team will keep Mike Remmers at left tackle. Remmers, who filled in for Oher through most of the 2016 season, is a free agent who will likely sign an extension with the team to play in his natural position on the right side.
There are no immediate answers in this draft, either. This offensive tackle class appears to be weaker than in recent years. Gettleman agreed.
“The last three years was pretty strong. Not so strong this year,” he said. “That’s what I know.”
That leaves free agency. There is a larger-than-usual number of left tackles with starting experience about to officially enter the market next week, including Minnesota’s Matt Kalil (brother of Panthers center Ryan Kalil), Ryan Clady (who was released by the Jets after injuries hindered his season) and Denver’s Russell Okung.
“It’s kind of crazy. It’s unusual,” said Gettleman. “I’m not going to lie, you have to entertain it. Of course.”
After the 2017 salary cap was announced at $167 million by the NFLPA on Wednesday, the Panthers are left with about $40 million in workable money, of which $10-12 million will be used on incoming draftees. That’s plenty to go toward signing a free agent tackle.
“We’re gonna use every means possible,” said Gettleman. “As I’ve said a number of times, I know I sound like a broken record, I want free agency to set up our draft so we can truly take the best player (available in the draft).”