It didn’t take long for Carolina Panthers interim general manager Marty Hurney to get to work in his new position.
Serving as Carolina’s GM from 2002 to 2012, Hurney seems comfortable pulling the trigger on important decisions. With that in mind, here are five more moves for Hurney to make before the 2017 season gets underway.
Extend Davis, Olsen
Hurney doesn’t need to give veterans Thomas Davis and Greg Olsen megadeals like the ones that ultimately got him fired in 2012, but the two longtime Panthers are central to the team’s culture and shouldn’t be lost.
Davis, a 34-year-old former Walter Payton Man of the Year, is coming off his fifth consecutive 100-tackle season, while Olsen, 32, became the first tight end to notch three straight 1,000-yard campaigns. Even if their skills decline, both will be heavily depended on as locker room leaders who Hurney doesn’t want to make enemies out of.
Reach out to Smith, Williams, Beason
One thing was clear after the Panthers fired Dave Gettleman on Monday: he pissed off a lot of the franchise’s best players.
Steve Smith, the franchise’s all-time leading receiver, DeAngelo Williams, the Panthers’ all-time leading rusher, and Jon Beason, a former All-Pro and fan favorite, all expressed disdain for Gettleman after his dismissal.
- Former Panthers Smith, Norman react to ex-GM Gettleman’s firing
- Williams open to Panthers return after firing of ‘snake’ Gettleman
- Ex-Panther Beason sheds light on Gettleman’s antagonistic antics
These players are important pieces of the franchise’s history who all have a voice within the fan base. Hurney was the GM who drafted each of them, so he should have built enough of a relationship to welcome them back to the fold.
Something has been missing from the Panthers’ offense since Gettleman dismissed Smith, who had filled the role of tough, veteran receiver. Anquan Boldin can provide that presence.
The 36-year-old wants to return for at least one more season and has scheduled a visit, though he won’t disclose with whom. Boldin brings physicality, toughness, and the veteran leadership that few can provide with a Super Bowl championship, Man of the Year award, and seven 1,000-yard seasons. He may not be Smith, but he’s as close to a replacement as Hurney will find.
Replace Oher with Clady
It sounds as if Oher’s career could be over after dealing with concussion problems since November. While he wasn’t an elite blocker in Carolina, the Panthers do not have a strong offensive line and every loss matters.
Ryan Clady, a 30-year-old four-time Pro Bowl tackle, is hands down the best blocker on the free-agent market, and should be willing to take a team-friendly deal at this point in the offseason. He may or may not be able to beat out Daryl Williams or Matt Kalil for one of the team’s starting tackle jobs, but with the importance placed on keeping Cam Newton healthy and upright, he’s a risk worth taking.
Trade Lotulelei for picks
While some have pointed to the success the Panthers had under Gettleman as reason to keep him in place, the former GM did little in the way of creating depth.
The Panthers are one of the most top-heavy teams in the NFL with plenty of position groups that still need help. One unit that has a few extra pieces is the defensive line.
Former 14th overall pick Star Lotulelei is entering the final year of his contract, but he hasn’t quite lived up to expectations, and the Panthers already gave fellow defensive tackle Kawann Short a big extension this offseason. Their first-rounder from 2016, Vernon Butler, is currently slotted to be a backup but has the talent to start.
Lotulelei should be able to garner several draft picks in a trade that could help the future of the club, and if they aren’t planning to extend him, a move before the season would bring the best return.
(Photos courtesy: Action Images)
Copyright © 2017 Score Media Ventures Inc. All rights reserved. Certain content reproduced under license.