Carolina Panthers general manager Dave Gettleman is in the middle of another contract stare-down.
A couple of months after cutting ties with Josh Norman when the Pro Bowl cornerback wouldn’t budge from his demands, Gettleman has another Pro Bowl defender who wants a long-term extension and a hefty raise.
With defensive tackle Kawann Short eyeing the $17 million-a-year deal defensive lineman Fletcher Cox received from the Eagles this week, Gettleman seems determined to draw a line in the sand at price point below Cox’s number.
As the Panthers finished minicamp and prepared to break before training camp in July, Gettleman sat down with the Observer on Thursday to discuss his hard-line philosophy, the Short situation and Charlotte’s relatively cheap cost of living.
Q. You’ve made it clear you’re a hard-line negotiator. How does that philosophy co-exist in this era where the salary cap seemingly keeps skyrocketing?
A. We don’t know for sure if the salary cap is going to keep skyrocketing. We have to be fiscally responsible. It’s difficult. (Former Giants GM) Ernie (Accorsi) told me, ‘Dave, what’s going to keep you up is that salary cap.’ And he’s right. Because of the culture we’ve established here, we talk about family all the time here and we live it. We get involved in their lives and we know who’s married, who isn’t married, who has kids, what the kids’ names are and what’s going on in their lives. We know this stuff. And you get personally involved with these guys.
Q. But you can’t to a degree ...
A. There’s a point and time where I have to stop at a certain point and say, OK, again, I have to do what’s in the best interest of the Carolina Panthers. That’s just the way it is.
Q. And that’s been a successful approach. Is there a point where you risk turning off potential free agents with that (hard-line) reputation?
A. You mean outside guys?
Q. Either, or.
A. I think as long as there’s an honest and open line of communication, you just keep going. As long as you’re talking, you can come to an agreement. If you don’t talk, you’ve got no chance. You know that. When you and your wife are mad at each other, if you stop talking you ain’t fixing it. It’s not until a day later you look at each other and say, ‘OK, this is stupid.’
Q. But you know what I’m asking, if guys around the league might start saying, ‘Well, they might not pay you there.’
A. The other thing that guys have got to take into consideration is where am I going or where am I at? Is it a great place? Do you feel comfortable? Is your family happy? What kind of standard of living do you have? You think about it this way. When St. Louis got the OK to move to L.A., just for the heck of it we’re all talking one day. And one of our guys is really close friends with a guy that works for the Rams and is going to move with them. If you’re making 100 grand in St. Louis, just to break even you need to make 152 for LA. Fifty-two percent. Is his salary going up 52 percent? I don’t know.
So that’s something ...
Q. Charlotte has cheap cost of living.
A. You’re going to laugh at this. So come down here, I buy the house. I have about a third more house than I have in New Jersey. I’m paying less taxes than I am in Jersey. You’ve got to be kidding me. And you just keep going down the line. But that’s part of it. It’s understanding that ... you’ve got to look at the whole picture. I’m going to get Biblical on you. People say, ‘Money is the root of all evil.’ No, it’s not. The love of money is the root of all evil. That’s the entire scripture. So it’s one of those deals where you hope they take the whole picture.
Q. A lot of people are comparing Kawann Short’s contract situation to Josh Norman’s. But I’ve written that it’s a different deal because Short plays a position that you value. Is that a fair assessment?
A. Of course it is. Look at the way we’ve built this thing. We were talking about the way we’ve built the O-line and the D-line. The behind-the-scenes beauty of that is when you build strong fronts they make each other better because they’re practicing against each other. What better center are our defensive tackles going to work against than Ryan Kalil? What better guard are they going to work against than Trai (Turner)? And Andrew (Norwell) is a damn good player.
And obviously the O-linemen are going to be made better by working against KK and Star (Lotulelei) and Charles (Johnson) and Kony (Ealy). So everybody gets better. I’ve been very open about how we’ve built this team. And so obviously I love my hog mollies.
Q. Ron Rivera has talked a lot about avoiding complacency. You’ve been a part of teams that have won Super Bowls. What does complacency avoidance look like at the front office level?
A. I’ve always said, ‘If you’re not getting better, you’re getting worse.’ Nothing changes. You’re constantly looking at players. You want to get better. You have to objectively evaluate what you’ve got and be honest about it.
(Panthers right tackle Mike Remmers walks by on his way out of the stadium.)
Hey, Michael. Take care, Michael. ...
You have to keep working at it. Until you win the big one, and even after that you’ve got to keep going. It’s easy to keep it going because very honestly, all of us love the game. We love the competition and we love when that stadium’s rocking and rolling.