The new general manager has a host of issues to deal with, but these are the three most important things Dave Gettleman will need to deal with once he arrives is Carolina.
As the Carolina Panthers signed their new general manager, there wasn't much pomp and circumstance. A simple press release, a few quotes from Jerry Richardson and the New York Giants -- that was it. It may be next week before Dave Gettleman is formally introduced, and gives insight into his plan for getting the organization back on track. Despite this delay, there's no reason why the wheels can't start turning, and today we're looking at the first three moves he needs to make upon arriving in Charlotte.
For the purposes of forging a relationship with Gettleman we need a nickname. Thus far today I've seen 'Gentleman' suggested, and while that's okay -- I'm going with 'Papa Getts', and if he does well that will be improved to 'Big Poppa Getts' (holla if you hear me?). It embraces the paternal, while also implicitly ensuring everyone knows that this team needs to be handled with papa-like care, as the Panthers are in a pretty tenuous position right now.
1. Start talking to Greg Hardy
Popular opinion is to start working out how to shed salary from the Panthers' books, but if I'm Papa Getts then I'm renting a small dinghy, packing a cooler, and trying to reel in the Kraken. Having a double-digit sack artist is almost a pre-requisite for success in the NFL, having two is a luxury that needs to be cultivated.
Make no mistake, this can't be a Marty Hurney "SHUT UP AND TAKE MY MONEY!" signing, but rather one that's handled prudently. There is a mutually beneficial middle ground that could ensure Hardy remains with the Panthers long-term, while also being on a cap-friendly contract. The continuation of his growth with Ron Rivera and Eric Washington has to remain intact, and they seem to know how to harness his ability.
As it stands Carolina are one strong defensive tackle away from having a 2003-esque defensive line, and with Frank Alexander showing flashes off the bench -- the Panthers are in good stead to have one of the NFL's most dominant pass rushes; but wrapping up Hardy long-term is the key.
2. Making the tough cut
This is terrible because he's still an outstanding player, but the Carolina Panthers can no longer afford Chris Gamble. Set to make almost $10-million in 2013, it's hard to justify spending money on an admittedly talented cornerback when they played equally well as a unit when Gamble was injured.
There may be no rhyme or reason why James Dockery and Josh Thomas can be as effective as Chris Gamble and Josh Norman -- but nobody at the end of the season was complaining. If Steve Wilks and Sean McDermott have developed a 'plug-and-play' scheme for their defensive backs, then the Panthers should leverage that to its fullest and be cheap at CB. A draft pick here or these, develop Josh Norman, and add a legitimate safety -- that's all they need to do.
Each year we have a spate of people arrive in the off-season and suggest that the Panthers cut Chris Gamble. This is largely due to his lack of flash, and low interception numbers. This year, for salary reasons alone -- it's time to agree with them and say 'Good bye'.
3. Have a frank discussion with Jon Beason
Out of respect for Beason and the organization it's time to have a long discussion about where he wants his career to go. The Carolina Panthers signed him to a much-deserved long term contract, but things changed rapidly. Nobody expected Beast to get injured, and nobody expected Luke Kuechly to arrive in the NFL looking like the second-coming of Brian Urlacher.
What we know about Beast is that he's a better inside linebacker than outside, and it's the position he prefers. We also know that he loves this area, and wants to remain in Carolina -- so it's time for an honest discussion. What's more important to him: Remaining a Panther, or playing at middle linebacker?
There have been suggestions that Carolina move to a 3-4 to accommodate both Beason and Kuechly, but the risk of messing with the pass rush is too great. Greg Hardy has the versatility to move to OLB, but it's unlikely Charles Johnson could make the same switch; there are also issues with what Thomas Davis' role would be in a 3-4 defense.
Is Jon Beason willing to restructure his contract and become an outside linebacker? From a pure football perspective the prospect of Beason/Kuechly/Davis in a 4-3 is mouth-watering, but there are personal and contractual issues to consider here. Moving Luke Kuechly from the middle is foolishness, so the Panthers are stuck between a rock and a hard place -- or more aptly, two excellent middle linebackers.