Carolina Panthers

Don’t expect Panthers GM Dave Gettleman to change plan that is ‘kind of working’

Carolina Panthers general manager Dave Gettleman responds to a question during a news conference at the NFL Scouting Combine on Wednesday in Indianapolis.
Carolina Panthers general manager Dave Gettleman responds to a question during a news conference at the NFL Scouting Combine on Wednesday in Indianapolis. AP

Dave Gettleman still hasn’t watched the Super Bowl.

The Carolina Panthers’ general manager will get around to it at some point. But Gettleman had more pressing issues the past two weeks, namely finalizing an offseason plan to put the Panthers in position to make a run at Super Bowl LI.

Gettleman provided a few clues Wednesday to what those personnel moves might look like, as he does every year during his comments at the NFL Scouting Combine.

And while Gettleman has steered the Panthers into an enviable salary cap position (an estimated $20 million below the projected cap), don’t expect the collector of hog mollies to go hog wild in free agency.

That’s not his style.

“You guys have seen my act for three years. I’m methodical. I’m intentional. And that’s the approach I’m going to take whether we’re $16 million over or we’re $25 (million) under,” Gettleman said. “I’m not going to change. I think it’s kind of working.”

The Panthers hired Gettleman three years ago after his hopes of becoming a GM appeared to have passed him by.

Since then, they’ve been to the playoffs three years in a row (a streak unprecedented in the NFC South), won 19 of their past 20 regular-season games and went to the Super Bowl for the second time in their history.

Yeah, Gettleman’s plan is working.

It involves building through the draft, developing and re-signing the Panthers’ core and resisting the temptation to sign the shiniest, sexiest free agents, regardless of the team’s cap position.

Gettleman locked up four of the franchise cornerstones before last season when he signed quarterback Cam Newton, middle linebacker Luke Kuechly, tight end Greg Olsen and linebacker Thomas Davis to contract extensions.

Gettleman, who two years ago had to shop at the “dollar store” in free agency, showed he’s willing to splurge on his own guys.

“We shopped at Tiffany’s last year. TD, Greg, Luke and Cam,” Gettleman said. “That cost more than a bag of donuts.”

Those moves and the smart drafting by Gettleman and predecessor Marty Hurney have created a stacked roster built for long-term success. Gettleman has work to do this winter, but it’s not heavy lifting.

You don’t overhaul a 15-1 team that was favored in the Super Bowl. You tweak it, and Gettleman provided some insight into a few of the key offseason issues facing the Panthers.

Three takeaways:

▪ Josh Norman (still) seems to be headed for a franchise tag.

Gettleman said his hope is to get a long-term deal done with Norman, one of the top free agents after an All-Pro season in 2015. But with Norman looking to be paid among the top corners ($14 million to $15 million a year), it figures to be a tough negotiation.

The Panthers have until Tuesday to apply the tag, which would cost them a projected $13.7 million to keep Norman on the roster for another season. The two sides, scheduled to meet this week, can continue to negotiate if the team uses the tag.

“I don’t believe in drafting (and) developing players for other teams. For some reason it doesn’t make sense,” Gettleman said. “So yes, we’re going to have the conversation and do the best we can. We’re going to try to get a deal done. And if not, there are options and maybe the tag gets used.”

Gettleman said he’s not concerned about Norman reacting negatively toward the tag, adding, “Josh is a pro.”

▪ Defensive end Charles Johnson is going to have to take a big pay cut to stay on the roster.

Gettleman didn’t say that specifically about Johnson, who had one regular-season sack during an injury-plagued 2015 and has a salary cap charge of $15 million this year.

But Gettleman didn’t exactly heap praise on a player who is No. 2 in team history in sacks. Asked whether Johnson could still be productive, Gettleman said the front office was evaluating the situation.

“It’s hard because he got hurt,” Gettleman said. “Starts out he got hurt and he’s working his way back and it’s like all right when he’s going to be 100 percent? So we’re still going through that process.”

Gettleman asked left tackle Jordan Gross to take a big cut at the end of his career. Expect him to do the same with Johnson.

▪  Mike Remmers will go to training camp as the starter at right tackle.

There’s been a lot of talk that the Panthers should replace Remmers after his rough Super Bowl performance against Von Miller, Denver’s All-Pro outside linebacker. But none of that talk came from Gettleman.

“We’ve won 22 out of our last (26) games with Mike Remmers starting at right tackle,” Gettleman said. “I’m not a knee-jerk guy. I’m not going to do it. I will not do it. ... Again he’s young in his career now. Don’t take a snapshot and decide that we need a right tackle.”

Remmers will have to hold off second-year tackle Daryl Williams and maybe a draft pick to keep his job. But it sounds like the job will be his to lose.

Joseph Person: 704-358-5123, @josephperson


Related stories from Charlotte Observer