Carolina Panthers general manager Dave Gettleman had a productive offseason that included getting extensions done with quarterback Cam Newton, tight end Greg Olsen and outside linebacker Thomas Davis.
Gettleman cut ties with underperforming left tackle Byron Bell and signed Michael Oher, who has become synonymous with the position because of “The Blind Side” movie fame.
The Panthers’ third-year GM didn’t check every personnel box, choosing to stay in-house to fill the pass-rushing void left by Greg Hardy’s departure. But Gettleman believes the Panthers bolstered the receiving corps and offensive line through the draft and free agency.
After the Panthers wrapped up their three-day minicamp Thursday, Gettleman sat down with the Observer to discuss a number of topics, including how the Panthers will use their $118 million quarterback, the development of second-year wideout Corey Brown and the organization’s faith in Oher.
Q: During the news conference after Cam signed his extension, there was a question about whether the contract would be considered a failure if he doesn’t win a Super Bowl. You didn’t get a chance to address it. Do you want to?
A: When you’re talking that kind of money you’ve got to have a conviction. Everybody cites this stat, that stat. We’re really pleased with where Cam is. We’re really pleased with how he’s taken ownership, very pleased with his work. There’s a lot of things that go on that you guys don’t know about. Where he is right now, he still has plenty of room to get better. There’s no reason he won’t because he’s determined.
Q: What’s an example of things we don’t know about Cam?
A: The type of work he puts in. You guys don’t know, on Tuesday nights he’s walking around 10, 11 o’clock at night with the coaches. He’s here all day long. He’s involved. After practices on Wednesday and Thursday, he’s working. The amount of time he puts in, not only on that stuff but on the physical – keeping his body right, which he knows is part of his game. He’s the whole package.
Q: There’s a risk/reward component with him as a runner. I know you don’t want to take that out of the offense completely, but does anything change with that kind of investment?
A: No. He’s got to be Cam. You don’t hold back a thoroughbred, you don’t. I don’t know if you watched the Belmont. When (American) Pharoah came around that backstretch and that horse was nipping at his heels, the jockey let him go. He didn’t whip him. He’s just, ‘Go baby!’ And that’s what a thoroughbred does. You don’t change their game. …You can’t do it.
Q: You took a lot of measures this offseason to lock up Cam and other core guys. Can you speak to where Josh Norman fits in that?
A: I’m not going to go there.
Q: Is it fair to assume your timeline for extending Luke Kuechly will follow Cam’s?
A: The fair assumption is it’ll get done when it’s time. I watch other teams announce that they’re trying to get this guy signed and that guy signed. I’m not doing it. I’m not putting the pressure on me. I’m not putting the pressure on the kid or the agent. I’m not going to do that. It’ll get done when it gets done.
Q: Do you feel you’ve improved the depth at receiver?
A: Absolutely. You saw Corey (Brown); he’s taken the next step. He’s ready to go. Teddy (Ginn) caught the ball real well and did everything we wanted him to. Devin (Funchess) got a lot of reps. We’re deep. Jerricho (Cotchery) is Jerricho, steady, smooth. He does a great job in that room. And in order to do a great job in the room you have to do a great job on the field. And he does that.
Q: You didn’t draft a left tackle. There was a lot of talk about D.J. Humphries, and you said the choice was between him and Shaq Thompson. Is that a statement about Michael Oher being more of a short-term guy than a long-term answer?
A: I don’t look at anybody as a short-term answer. Michael, we brought him in. We believe in him. It’s no different than last year. I’m going to tell you something funny. Last year after the draft there’s a post on a (NFL) website that everybody reads that kills me for not drafting a left tackle. Five posts later, there’s a post praising (Baltimore Ravens GM) Ozzie Newsome for not reaching for a left tackle. The bottom line is we’re going to stay with the best player on the board. I’m not going to reach. We’re in the middle of this, watching film all the time. There’s a perceived need from the outside. I don’t react to that.
Q: It seemed clear – from the outside – after Humphries was gone (to Arizona one pick before the Panthers selected), you weren’t sold on the other left tackles in the draft. Is that accurate?
A: All the other guys that were left were going to need work. The purpose of unrestricted free agency is to put yourself in a position so when you get to the draft, you can draft the best player available. I can’t emphasize enough how much film we watched on Michael. Michael was the left tackle for Baltimore in 2012, Super Bowl champions. So we went back and watched that. There’s no stone unturned. We do our homework. It’s my old-school, grind mentality.
Q: With Norman and now Charles Tillman, you have a couple of good-sized cornerbacks. What’s your philosophy on big corners?
A: In this day and age, just think about it. Think about playing us. Think about us playing Tampa. I gave (Buccaneers general manager) Jason Light a hard time. I said, I’m going to put high-heeled sneakers on my guys to cover (6-5 receivers) Vincent Jackson, Michael Evans and (6-5 tight end Austin) Seferian-Jenkins. It’s basketball time. You’d like longer corners. Sometimes you’re going to give up a little something to get the length. But you have your philosophy and you look for the guys that fit.
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