Jan 5, 2013; Green Bay, WI, USA; Green Bay Packers wide receiver Greg Jennings (85) during the NFC Wild Card playoff game against the Minnesota Vikings at Lambeau Field. The Packers won 24-10. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Carolina Panthers are Necessarily Quiet in Free Agency While the Miami Dolphins Raise Hell

Any Libras out there?

The reason I’m asking is if you put the moves of the Carolina Panthers and Miami Dolphins next to each other, that “balance” of the scales would thud over on the Miami side like it’s filled with gold while the Panthers’ side is almost empty.

That’s because the Dolphins have been handing out the Krugerands like there’s no tomorrow…probably because their GM, Jeff Ireland, is feeling the heat and likely fears for his job if he doesn’t do his part to help the team improve. He’s put WR Mike Wallace among the top-3 highest-paid receivers in the NFL at age 24. I’m sure they’re paying him on “future production” that they HOPE will be filled with 1,000+ yard seasons and double-digit TDs since he’s the fastest WR in the NFL.

They had a top-ten scoring defense last season and hacked it up a bit too, signing not one but two linebackers to start. Dannell Ellerbe replaces an already very good MLB in Karlos Dansby, himself a free agent acquisition from the Arizona Cardinals a few years ago. Because of Dansby’s productive presence, that move certainly made me wonder. I don’t know all the dynamics, but rising second-year Head Coach Joe Philbin had the team improve last season, and that bought him some credibility.

Dec 2, 2012; Miami, FL, USA; Miami Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland prior to a game against the New England Patriots at Sun Life Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY

Ireland came into the free agent pool diving head first as a result, adding TE Dustin Keller of the New York Jets and WR Brandon Gibson from the St. Louis Rams while keeping Brian Hartline in-house. They lost TE Anthony Fasano but Keller’s a better overall player and reciver. Second-year QB Ryan Tannehill now has about every weapon he could dream of in the passing game when you consider they’ve had a top-ten slot WR in Davone Bess for his entire NFL career.

On the other end – that side of the “balance” that’s swinging empty on the other side of the Dolphins’ largess resides the Carolina Panthers.

New GM David Gettleman’s hands are tied from former GM Marty Hurney’s own largess. It’s one thing to take care of your best players, but he caught the same sickness that it would appear Jeff Ireland succumbed to. Gettleman’s feeling the results of such moves – center Ryan Kalil was made the NFL’s highest-paid center by Hurney. Fine…he’s deserving of it.

However, Hurney seemed to fall in love with certain players…especially running backs. He had signed not one, not two, but THREE (?!!??!??) backs to big multi-year contracts. He signed both DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart to huge deals and that raised eyebrows around the NFL. Then, after he signed Mike Tolbert to another big contract before last season, some questioned his sanity despite Tolbert’s “hometown discount.”

Gettleman is quiet this free agency period as a result. He’s there, no doubt working hard, doing his due diligence with the upcoming rookies for the draft, but he has also been re-working contracts in order to get the Panthers beneath the $123 million salary cap figure for 2013. They were over the cap before he worked some magic, and the players, for their part, were receptive to it.

They’re professionals and aren’t stupid; they want to win, and if it means “restructuring” their contracts and/or taking a small pay cut, they’ve generally been on board. They know what’s going on. They read the internet and see the headlines on Sportscenter, etc.

As a result, Gettleman has let a few higher-priced veterans go to make room for the rookies, perhaps a couple of cheap free agents with some upsdie to them like DT Colin Cole, and is maneuvering the team’s salary situation for the future so that when a key free agent becomes available, they’ll be able to DO something about it.

Can you imagine if the Panthers were able to afford Greg Jennings? Fans would be ecstatic.

No…David’s taking a hard-line, prudent, and disciplined approach to the situation this season. Gone are veteran CB Chris Gamble, LB James Anderson, and DT Ron Edwards.

So far, nobody has been signed to replace them and it looks like they’ll have to do so via the 2013 NFL Draft….where Gettleman faces another, albeit smaller, hurdle.

The Panthers do not have a third-round pick because of the trade-up last year to grab DE Frank Alexander out of Oklahoma. It appears he was worth the trade, but unlike the Miami Dolphins and their 5 draft choices in the first 3 rounds, the Panthers have but two…their “organic” first and second-rounders.

Gettleman knows he’s gotta get both of those right. If he can nab two quality starters in the top two picks the team has and find a gem in the latter rounds, he’ll have helped solidify the cracking foundation of the organization’s financial picture while improving the product on the field without spending a king’s ransom to do so…again, unlike the Dolphins.

If he can pull it off, he’ll actually have “shown up” fellow Miami GM Jeff Ireland while doing so with a lot more fiscal restraint.

And that would be exactly what the Carolina Panthers accounting department ordered.

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Tags: Carolina Panthers David Gettleman Jeff Ireland Miami Dolphins

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