NFL

Rodgers Football Instincts are incredible it’s what sets him apart.

The 2017 NFL playoffs have been entertaining to watch for the most part because of the Hall of Fame caliber quarterbacks we have remaining. The question that keeps running through my head, watching his games play out is how in God’s green earth did Aaron Rodgers fall to 24th overall in the 2005 draft? It’s mind-boggling to me, I understand he was lightly recruited out of high school and ended up at the University of California.

He put up pretty good numbers with 43 touchdowns and 13 interceptions in his two seasons with the Golden Bears. Despite the good numbers he continued to tumble in the first round, then lucky for Packer fans everywhere they selected Rodgers and that is proving to be one of the best decisions in franchise history. Rodgers vowed to make every team that passed on him regret it and boy has he. He spent a three-season apprenticeship behind Hall of Famer Brett Favre soaking in all the knowledge possible while waiting for his opportunity.

Patience paid off as in 2008, Rodgers took the reins of the franchise and now has a stranglehold on that position for as long as his body will allow. He’s gone from that lightly recruited high school kid to a Super Bowl champion and a two-time MVP in a flash. Making good on his promise that he would prove those teams wrong that passed on him on that fateful April day.

It’s clear that Rodgers has the physical attributes that make a good NFL quarterback with pinpoint accuracy and the size to absorb hits from 350-pound defensive lineman. That being said, the thing that sets them apart from all the great NFL quarterbacks today and many from the past is football IQ and instincts much like Peyton Manning had during his career.

Rodgers has the ability to catch defenses with their hand in the cookie jar multiple times during a game whether that be drawing them off sides giving a free play or 12 men on defense. Thus, putting his team in the best position to succeed play after play because he’s always aware of his surroundings and what is going on. He has thrown a touchdown pass 13 times after drawing the defense offside the next highest amongst quarterbacks is three touchdowns simply incredible.

His mind is a tool that is unmatched and he does things on a football field that can’t be taught. You better not take any play off against him because of your lax at any point he will make you pay ask the Giants, Cardinals, and Lions he has completed hail Mary’s against them, resulting in victories and huge momentum changers, a play that is supposed to rarely work Rodgers has made look easy. Another reason to marvel at Rodgers’ physical and mental abilities on a football field.

Rodgers has had a Hall of Fame caliber career despite the lack of running game because of injury and lack of production. Also he has been able to turn wide receivers that were undrafted or late round picks into Pro bowl worthy players! He makes us remember names like Geronimo Allison, Jeff Janis, and Richard Rogers it’s remarkable how much Rogers impact the game of football and the careers of individual players.

As you can see, the game of football is much more than just the X’S and O’S Aaron Rodgers is the poster child for affecting the game in the tiniest of ways and that end up being the reason they win the game. He’s going to need to play his best game of the season in my opinion to get past the Atlanta Falcons who come on strong. This game will be a shootout and I think the team that forces the first turnover will win. It’s going to be fun to watch! I’m not going to bet against Aaron Rodgers, who affects the game in multiple ways!

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NFL

Chargers Moving to LA: What should we expect

The NFL landscape changed greatly Thursday as the San Diego Chargers officially relocated to Los Angeles joining the Rams. This move has been discussed for the last three years, so it’s not much of a surprise. I feel terrible for the city of San Diego and their fans losing part of their identity has to be a hard pill to swallow. The Chargers owner Alex Spanos is partially to blame for this move because I don’t think the invested enough in his organization to make them perennial contenders year after year.

As a result, the teams play has been mediocre over the last handful of years, thus causing a big decline in average attendance the last two seasons, ranking 19th and 31st respectively resulting in declining revenue for both the team and the city. Ultimately the final nail in the San Diego Chargers coffin was the inability to come to terms on a new stadium. A conversation that has been going on for the better part of 15 years, finally came to an end and the Chargers are packing their bags for Los Angeles.

The National Football League is a business and having two teams in Los Angeles opens up numerous revenue opportunities because it’s such a big market. However, this could backfire at least in the short term because both of these teams are in a transitional period the Charges with an aging quarterback and they don’t have the future on the roster currently to learn from Philip Rivers, which could set them back even more.

As you can see, there are tons of questions for the Charges and last time I checked it’s important to win games and get people excited about the organization’s direction and honestly this organization is in flux. Theoretically relocation to Los Angeles should help revenue, but you are competing with the Rams. Whom have a young quarterback and running back to build around with a top 10 defense. For those reasons I am more confident in the Los Angeles Rams long-term future than I am the Los Angeles Chargers even though they have good pieces to build around, but a quarterback is essential for success.

Despite all the questions this team faces new situations create new opportunities that’s the best part about this entire situation. The Chargers have a clean slate with a new coach and a new city where they can build a lasting legacy. Although, Philip Rivers is aging and they need to look at the draft for the future, he is still a very capable quarterback to lead them to victories. They also must avoid the backbreaking injuries and fourth-quarter blunders. The reality is it doesn’t matter where you play your games a little luck and smart football always applies.

This team has definitely lacked those qualities over the last couple years and that must change if they want to start winning on a consistent basis. Another positive thing about this move is they have a chance to make a great first impression and make the city of San Diego regret they weren’t able to get that new stadium. I hope they have success in Los Angeles for all their fans across the country.

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NFL

Rex Ryan fired by Bills

Yesterday, Rex Ryan became the third head coach to be handed a pink slip after just two seasons as the Buffalo head coach. Although I wasn’t in love with the hire when it happened, I think Buffalo had a pretty quick hook for Ryan especially in the division led by Tom Brady and Bill Belichick. The Buffalo Bills organization is about as unstable as it can get they will be on the 10th head coach in 17 years. It looks like it will be a long road back to contention for the bills as they have more questions than answers especially at the quarterback position.

I think Rex Ryan’s undoing started when he hired his brother Rob Ryan as assistant coach and defensive coordinator because the last two places Rob has coached he has led two of the worst defenses in recent memory while with the Saints and Cowboys. Not only that, it the team fired offensive coordinator Greg Roman after just four weeks he was one of the highest-paid assistants in the league.

This shows Ryan didn’t surround himself with the right coaching staff to get the most out of his players. Also, there were a lot of big personalities that one in their opinion known, especially on the defensive side of the ball causing tension between the defense and coaches. As one player put it there were too many cooks in the kitchen and Ryan had lost that part of the locker room. That’s really bad considering Ryan’s forte was defense as a coach, but somehow during his tenure, they went from leading the league in sacks to the bottom of the barrel in the NFL.

Lastly, Ryan and the GM Doug Whaley had a rocky relationship and weren’t on the same page at the quarterback position. This would definitely the last straw for Whaley and the Bills ultimately decided to move on. The team has decided to bench starter Tyrod Taylor to avoid a significant injury because if that were to occur the team will owe Taylor 30.5 million in guaranteed money. I agree with this decision because as I said the GM was very noncommittal about Taylor as the teams’ long-term solution at quarterback.

The only sure thing on the Buffalo Bills as they stand currently is running back Lesean Mccoy, but has struggled with multiple injuries in his career and while in Buffalo. Other than that, what the 2017 bills will look like is up in the air because they’ve yet to establish an identity that every team needs to succeed in the NFL.

The one thing I do like is it has been reported that interim head coach Anthony Lynn is the leading candidate to become the permanent head coach, I like this because you’re hiring from within and it seems like the offense has gotten better since he’s taken over so they won’t have to learn a completely new scheme if he does get hired permanently. The Buffalo Bills have a lot figure out if they want to contend anytime soon. They made Rex Ryan the scapegoat now what is their next move?

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Carolina Panthers, NFL

Panthers experiencing an EPIC Superbowl Hangover  

You know that hangover when you can feel the pulse is in your head and you just want to curl up in a ball because your eyes are so sensitive to light. That’s how I would describe the play of the 2016 Carolina Panthers. It’s been absolutely atrocious opposing quarterbacks are playing seven on seven against our defense on top of that we become colorblind and have butter fingers. Those factors add up to a 1-5 record and the faintest chance to reach the playoffs at this rate.

This is coming off a magical year where it seemed we couldn’t do anything wrong with a 15-1 and looked primed to claim the franchise’s first championship but we ran into Von Miller and the Denver Bronco defense. This just proves it’s hard to win consistently in the NFL matter how good you were a new year can change everything you think you know about the National Football League and the Panthers are learning a brutal lesson about that.

 

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The Norman Effect

The first thing people are going to talk about is the team’s gamble to rescind the franchise tag of all Pro cornerback Josh Norman. That gamble has definitely not paid off our secondary is like Swiss cheese there are so many holes with two rookies on each side and they are getting schooled.

I backed our decision to let Norman walk the reason why was our front seven wreaked havoc, creating money pockets forcing bad throws allowing Norman and other defenders to take advantage. This year our defensive line is like where’s Waldo all of our pass rush has completely disappeared, forcing Sean McDermott are defensive coordinator to bring extra guys on blitzes causing a weakness to become weaker. Our defense has gone from number six in the league to an atrocious 29th and that fear that opponents had when facing our defense has quickly evaporated now quarterbacks are licking their chops and they are absolutely picking us apart.

While I agree, that Norman is a factor in our struggles we also lost veterans like Charles Tillman, Jared Allen and Cortland Finnegan have played a vital role in the defense of success last year. I think the lack of pass rush has been a bigger factor than the loss of Norman because it’s put even more pressure on the rookies having to cover for so much long has exposed the fact that they are young and don’t know the speed of the NFL. There’s no doubt this gamble has backfired, but you’ve also got to put it on the execution by the players just as much the decision of the organization.

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Under Pressure

The offense has had its share of struggles I think the big reason why is because they understand they have to match the opponent score for score to even feel like they have a chance to pick up the victory. Thus causing Newton and Anderson to force things resulting in turnovers and bad decision-making. The team had a league-leading +20 turnover ratio in 2015 and now has a terrible -7 ratio giving opponents short fields and more possessions digging deeper holes for us to come back from.

Not only that, our offensive line has been less than desirable, causing quarterback Cam Newton to run for his life and he has suffered a concussion this season because of that. Ultimately that cost us a big chance of victory against division rival Tampa Bay. Additionally the wide receivers haven’t made the plays to help Newton. We look to be pressing and there have been way too many negative things on the offensive side of the ball despite our ability to put up points. If we can get healthy and somehow keep Cam Newton upright we can put up points we proved that it’s just a matter of stopping the opponent that’s been the issue.

Honestly we’ve looked absolutely terrible and frankly deserve to be where we are at 1-5. However, we’ve lost three games by field goals a missed 52-yard field goal as time expired in game one. A game-winning field goal by Tampa as time expired and a game winning field goal with 11 seconds left against the Saints. The reality is we are those three field goals away from possibly having a 4-2 record. That’s the way the NFL goes and it’s been gut-wrenching to watch, but it is what it is. To be honest, I’m losing a little confidence in Graham Gano he’s missed 2 extra points and three key field goals that could’ve changed the result of games.

The season has no doubt been disappointing, but it’s not over yet the Kansas City Chiefs were able to overcome this start and make the playoffs so anything can happen, but we have to play with a sense of urgency and desperate the rest of the way to give us the best chance possible to make the playoffs.

I just want people to stop playing the blame game we haven’t played good football at all in the execution from the coaches and the players has been subpar and that’s why we are struggling not because Josh Norman isn’t a Panther anymore. I bleed black and blue every season no matter the circumstances even if I’m frustrated that’s what we have to do Keep Pounding!!

 

 

 

 

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Carolina Panthers, NFL

Carolina Panthers keep core together in good offseason

The Carolina Panthers have had an interesting yet very productive off-season as they look to do something that’s never been done. No Super Bowl loser has returned to the big game the following season, that being said, I think the team is in better shape coming into 2016 with the return of Kelvin Benjamin and the team being one year older.

The biggest storyline was the organization’s decision to rescind the franchise tag of Pro bowl corner Josh Norman, which initially was a shocker, but I think it was a great decision because by letting Norman walk they opened up about 32 million dollars in cap space and they’ve put it to good use this off-season keeping the core of the team together with contract extensions. Additionally we’ve added veteran complimentary pieces that have enhanced the depth on the roster.

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The Offensive Line

The most important person to keep healthy on this team is quarterback Cam Newton because as Newton goes the team follows. That being said, it was important to keep consistency and depth within the offensive line. The team did that in a big way signing Ryan Kalil, and Michael Oher, to contract extensions they also added veteran center Gino Gradkowski improving the depth of a vital position on the football field.

Kalil has been one of the best centers in the game in his 10 years, he is a five-time Pro Bowler a stabilizing force for our team and the quarterbacks he’s worked with throughout his career. He’s also been very durable playing at least 10 games in seven seasons and starting all 16 games in five of those creating stability for everyone on the offense. He was rewarded with a two-year 16.75 contract extension virtually assuring he will finish his career as a lifelong panther as it should be.

Next, the team locked up right tackle Michael Oher, who had a breakout year, solidifying the left tackle position that was left in flux with the retirement of longtime Panther Jordan Gross. Oher was coming off a disappointing stint with the Titans where he was plagued by injury.

Despite the recent disappointments in Oher career, he made the seamless transition to the Panthers and played a vital role in protecting Cam Newton as we made our Super Bowl run. This off-season as Oher was weighing his options as a free agent Newton personally called Oher saying that he wanted him back in a panther uniform and the team felt the same as we signed Oher to a three-year 21.6 million dollar extension keeping the stability in front of our franchise quarterback.

Lastly, the team signed Gino Gradkowski as the backup center and possibly the eventual replacement for Kalil whenever he decides to hang them up. In his first two seasons with the ravens he started 15 of 16 games and all 16 games last two seasons, then fell off in his last two seasons split between Baltimore and Atlanta where he started eight games and four games respectively.

The last two seasons notwithstanding Gradkowski has proven he can be an effective NFL player and will be a serviceable backup Kalil. The Panthers have made sure this unit has stayed intact this off-season with the only question mark being the right tackle position between Mike Remmers and youngster Daryl Williams. The team has done an excellent job of finding the best combination to protect the MVP in Newton.

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Mike Tolbert

The Panthers continued to take care of their own signing fullback Mike Tolbert to a two-year $4 million contract extension. Tolbert has been one of the most productive fullbacks in the league and since putting on a panther uniform he’s gotten even more effective because of the playmakers around him and he is taking full advantage.

This signing not only brings back a playmaker, but a familiar face that knows the protections and is a good blocker as well. Furthermore, it keeps the record-breaking offense in 2015 completely the same except the welcome addition of wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin who is returning from injury.

The team has made it a point to keep the chemistry and camaraderie of each unit as high as possible and bringing Tolbert back continues that theme and I expect us to be better than ever in 2016.

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JJ Jansen

One of the more underrated signings for the Panthers this off-season with locking up long snapper JJ Jansen to a five-year contract extension worth $5.5 million. To just the average football fan, this would seem like a waste of money, however one of the most important positions on the field that is many times overlooked.

Jansen has been with the Panthers since 2009 and over that period of time he’s handled over 1000 snaps whether that is on punts, field goals or extra points and has been rock solid handling over 600 attempts since his last misstep in 2010, knock on wood.

A position that I believe will start getting more recognition because field goals are longer and as we saw in the playoff game the Minnesota Vikings the snap matters. Jansen is a vital piece of the special teams unit, helping kicker Graham Gano confidence to just focus on his job making pressure packed kicks. Never having to worry about the  snap  because it’s going to be spot on. The team recognized Jansen importance and rewarded him accordingly, keeping the bomb squad intact for the foreseeable future.

The Defense

The Panthers also fortified one of the best defensive units in the NFL over the last couple of years and continued the theme of the off-season keeping the core guys together on each unit. They made three major moves increasing the depth at the defense of tackle position signing veteran Paul Soliai, who is another big body and is expected to be a great run stopper.

This seems to be a great fit because Soliai will be playing alongside his great friend Star Lotulelei. Not only will you be an asset for us on the field I think he will be a great addition to the locker room commodity because of the comfort level that comes when playing with a close friend. This team cares about quality football players and people they got both of those things with Soliai.

NFL: Denver Broncos at Carolina Panthers

Charles Jonson

The next move was a bit of a shocker when the team was able to re-sign Charles Johnson to a one-year $3 million “prove it” deal after a disappointing 2015. A season that saw him tear his hamstring and then lose playing time to Jared Allen who was playing better after he came back from injury.

This was shocking that Johnson would even consider coming back to the Carolinas because of the money he was offered elsewhere, specifically with the Giants it was five years, but Johnson clearly wanted to stay in the Queen City because he almost fired his agent over his desire to stay in Charlotte that is clear loyalty and I respect that immensely.

Johnson was extremely unselfish in signing this deal it allowed the team to clear much-needed cap space. He showed exactly what he cared about and that is winning. Johnson coming back adds a familiar face and a veteran guy for the young up and comers to learn from. An asset that sometimes gets overlooked, but is extremely important for the growth of the players and the defense as a whole now and in the future.

This is a low risk high reward scenario for the Panthers because if they get the Pro bowl Charles Johnson or something remotely close to that the defense will be even more fierce and if not it doesn’t cost them a great deal financially. Also, they have a lot of good options to replace if he gets injured again or if he’s not effective. it’s a win-win deal for the organization. I hope he comes back stronger than ever, giving us another weapon for opponents to plan for.

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Kurt Coleman

The last move the team made was signing Kurt Coleman to a three-year $17 million contract extension. This move was a must, as Coleman has quickly becoming the quarterback of the secondary with the departures of Josh Norman, Charles Tillman and Roman Harper who went back to the Saints.

Coleman is coming off a breakout 2015 where he had 90 total tackles, 55 solo and more importantly seven interceptions. An amazing first impression for a guy I had no idea who he was when we signed him last off-season, but is quickly become one of my favorites because of the brutality and focus that he plays with.

As one of the veterans of the secondary his leadership is going to be crucial as the team is trying to get the three rookie cornerbacks comfortable in our system. I believe Coleman will play a vital part in their development while continuing to improve his great skills set.

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Ron Rivera

It wasn’t just the players that were taking care of this off-season, but head coach Ron Rivera was awarded a nice extension for his role in making the Panthers one the NFL’s best teams. He signed a three-year 19.5 million dollar extension making sure he will be in Carolina at least through the 2018 season.

It’s a well-deserved contract as he was one of the most underrated coaches in the NFL today. It wasn’t all roses and beginning, however some were calling for his head after a slow start to his coaching tenure. Then came the nickname Riverboat Ron taking chances going for it more than normal on fourth down, putting more trust in his player’s ability.

This resulted in the team playing more free and easy trusting themselves and because of that a lot of winning and consistent play has happened since the nickname arrived. He has led the Panthers to three straight division titles an NFC championship and has been named the NFL Coach of the year twice. He has brought honesty, consistency, and creativeness to the Panthers organization and I’m proud that he’s our coach.

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Conclusion

The Carolina Panthers have shown they pride themselves on his loyalty and high character players and personnel. The team took the $32 million cap space they got once Norman left and turned it into six contract extensions, ensuring the bulk of this roster stays the same for a long while. They also signed three veteran guys to low-cost contracts to add different abilities to this team.

So in all they turned one player in Josh Norman, who was going to require a max deal into nine players. Many of whom are vital to the success and chemistry of this team the lesson here is be loyal to Carolina they’ll be loyal to you. If not it’s okay will find quality players that want to be in the Queen city. Don’t mess with  GM Dave Gettleman he’s not afraid to play hardball. This team is set up for another Super Bowl run and I can’t wait for it to start.

 

 

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NFL

Luck MegaDeal: A Head Scratcher from an Organizational Standpoint

For weeks now the Indianapolis Colts had been hinting at an historic extension for their quarterback Andrew luck. Yesterday it became a reality when Luck signed a six-year $140 million contract with 87 million in guaranteed money! Andrew luck is now the highest paid player in the NFL is set to make $30 million in 2016 absolutely insane.

From Andrew luck’s perspective, this is a dream situation being set financially for life, thus allowing him to focus on his job, which is bringing championships to Indianapolis. Additionally, this contract runs through his age 32 season. Which means he will still be in his prime and able to get another sizable chunk of change from Indianapolis or another team depending on how this contract turns out. No matter how you slice it Andrew Luck won this deal BIG TIME!

However, from the Colts standpoint, I’m a little skeptical, I’m not saying Luck isn’t worthy of a big extension. He threw an NFL best 40 touchdowns in 2014 and is the fourth player in history to throw 100 touchdowns in his first four seasons. Those are MVP type stats and you could see why Indianapolis invested so much in Luck.

On the other hand, I question if Luck will be able to stay healthy I’m worried 2015 was a precursor to the future. Luck suffered a shoulder injury and a lacerated kidney causing him to miss the latter part of last year. The injuries were in large part due to the lack of protection from his offensive line he was pressured on 32% of his drawbacks. No quarterback will come out unscathed if they’re constantly facing that much heat. If he gets hurt again the Colts are royally screwed and last time I checked, there aren’t that many quality NFL backups in the league.

Also in football there are two sides of the ball and the Colts defense hasn’t been great for a while now and a quarterback can only cover up so much. In 2015 the defense ranked 26th in the league, which isn’t going to cut it if they hope to win consistently.

Lastly, what happens if they need to improve the defense side or re-sign the playmakers around Luck? Where is that money going to come from it’s not like money grows on trees and quality NFL players don’t come cheap. The point being if they don’t win financial flexibility could become an issue, forcing them to part ways with important parts of their roster.

Although, I think Andrew luck is a great NFL quarterback and deserves a big contract. The team overpaid and I struggle to see the team having sustained success because of the financial burden potential I talked about and the unpredictability of injuries in the game of football. We’ll just have to wait and see how it works out. I love it from the player perspective the team not so much!

 

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Carolina Panthers, NFL

The Carolina Panthers make the right call on Josh Norman

On Wednesday the Carolina Panthers sent shockwaves through the NFL world when they decided to rescind the franchise tag on cornerback Josh Norman. Making him an unrestricted free agent free to sign anywhere. Personally I think the Panthers made the right move in letting Norman walk and I think it will benefit the franchise presently and in the long run.

The Panthers sent a strong message with this move showing they will not be pushed around and/or mortgage the future success of the franchise for a player that doesn’t seem to have the right mindset for this organization. Especially with just one Pro bowl season and by all accounts a questionable attitude. Prior to last year’s breakout season Norman, if I recall correctly, he was in the doghouse with Coach Rivera and he didn’t play much his first couple of seasons. I understand a player wanting his payday after being productive on the field, but it was just one season and Norman’s asking price is absolutely ridiculous in my opinion.

He wants Patrick Peterson and Darrelle Revis type money asking for 16 million per year. Norman only has one great year under his belt where as Revis and Peterson have proven track records to be quality football players and shutdown corners. I’m not saying Norman isn’t a good player and may be worth that much someday, but right now there is no way. I know he didn’t get thrown at much the second half of the season after his torrid beginning, but I seem to remember some situations where he gambled and got burned  putting our defense in some bad spots.

Another big factor in his decision is his attitude it’s been reported that he was not the best locker room presence and that’s one thing I’ve learned since Gettleman’s arrival to the Panthers is a locker room chemistry is paramount and if that comes into question the “offender” is usually not a part of the long-term plan of the team. Norman’s attitude played a part in the contract negotiations and it was clear to Gettleman that a long-term contract was not feasible due to Norman’s demands.

The team was reportedly willing to give Norman 11 million per year, which isn’t too shabby, but sometimes a person’s true colors come out showing what he is really after. Instead of having the opportunity to win championships in the years to come Norman chose the greenbacks his choice and the Panthers were willing to oblige allowing him and his agent to explore a trade. When that didn’t work out they just cut ties with him altogether. Like I said I don’t fault a guy for wanting a big payday, but it seems he could have had the best of both worlds with the opportunity to win championships and make a good chunk of change in the process it is what it is best of luck to him.

Honestly the organization might be in better shape now they opened up 32 million in cap space. The team can shore up multiple areas of the roster and not have that money chewed up by one player; which could potentially handcuff the organization in the future when trying to add other players or re-sign our own. Speaking of keeping our own we can now lock up our core players like Kawann Short and Star Lotulelei to long-term deals to keep them in the Queen city for a while. I applaud the Panthers brass and ownership for sticking to their guns and not giving in!

Gettleman has proven he is not afraid to make the unthinkable move he doesn’t care what other people think he just does what’s best for the organization’s present and future. I’ll admit it was a shocking move, but I agree with it and I believe the Panthers will be better off and I’m excited to see what else he’s got up his sleeve to improve the team in the weeks to come.

 

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