When news broke about sixth-round pick Tyler Gaffney being lost for the season to a knee injury it was disappointing. He had a lot of potential to be a significant runner for the Panthers in time. With the oft-injured Jonathan Stewart already sidelined, there was a chance he could have seen playing time sooner rather than later.
When The Panthers drafted Gaffney in the sixth round of the draft is was a bit surprising because the team is so deep at running back. The late round pick seemed to obviously be part of a larger plan for the future.
However, any future plans involving Gaffney came crashing to a halt yesterday when suddenly out of the blue not only was he out for the year but he was out of town and on his way to another team. The Panthers made the decision to place him on IR and per league rules doing so during the offseason requires him to first pass through waivers. It is an unwritten rule that teams don’t go after the players on their way to that designation and it doesn’t happen often.
Enter the Patriots.
A team more than happy to bend real rules occasionally and casually step past the ones that simply go unsaid. Yesterday they did the latter. They saw a player with a lot of upside in the future put on waivers, and they snatched him away before he could land on IR. It was a risk The Panthers knew they were taking when they decided to move him to IR.
I think the fact that the Panthers knew what they were risking and did it anyway says all we really need to know. Twitter was buzzing yesterday afternoon with angry fans voicing their unhappiness at the move. Many people suggested that the move was incompetent and careless, and somehow Dave Gettlemen and the Panthers were duped by The Patriots.
On the surface the move does look like a blunder and it’s easy to take it the way that so many did. Personally I think the GM has earned more of our respect than that. While some of his decisions have not been popular with fans, the book has not been written on these decisions yet. In due time, we will probably see that he made the smart decisions. He made many moves during the offseason last year that people considered questionable at the time, but by seasons end, we were 12-4.
As it goes with the Tyler Gaffney situation, Gettleman specifically knows better than anyone that the possibility loomed before he allowed Gaffney to hit the waiver wire. A similar situation happened a few years ago when Gettleman was in the personnel department for the New York Giants. Tight End Jake Ballard tore his ACL in Super Bowl 46 against The Patriots and was still recovering from the injury in the 2012 preseason.
When the Giants tried to place him on the injured reserve list, the Patriots swooped in and grabbed him in the same fashion as they took Tyler Gaffney. The Patriots had lost the prior Super Bowl to The Giants and taking one of their players away seemed to be a move out of spite more than anything else. Ballard spent the entire season on the physically-unable-to-perform list (PUP), and was cut before the 2013 season started.
The Patriots lost a big time game to the Panthers last season on national television so they have cause to make this move out of spite, yet the circumstances are not the same. In time, Gaffney could recover to be a significant running back, but then again, so many things “could” happen.
Dave Gettlemen knew the risk was there when he decided to place Gaffney on IR and if he found his potential loss to be acceptable, I think we should all trust in his decision.
It’s certainly possible that Gettleman looked at his inherited high price running back Jonathan Stewart, who is injured yet again, and decided he wouldn’t mind losing a rookie running back that got hurt the first time he stepped on the field. He needed the roster spot and decided opening up one immediately was worth losing a guy he had invested only a sixth-round pick in.
Running backs are a dime-a-dozen in the NFL these days, even if the ones on our roster all come with a high price. Gaffney wasn’t going to play this season anyway and it is just as simple as drafting a similar back next year if needed. This was surprising and certainly unwelcome news yesterday afternoon, but at the end of the day, it isn’t that big of a deal.