Panthers GM Dave Gettleman: Roster is stronger now than a year ago


CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Carolina Panthers general manager Dave Gettleman was wearing short pants and sandals on Monday as he readied himself for the training camp heat in Spartanburg, South Carolina.

After spending the offseason upgrading the roster and signing to extensions quarterback Cam Newton, tight end Greg Olsen and linebacker Thomas Davis to promote long-term success, Gettleman says the roster also is ready for camp.

No move was bigger than signing Newton to a five-year, $103.8 million extension that runs through 2020.

A long-term extension with middle linebacker Luke Kuechly likely is next, but Gettleman wouldn't give a hint as to when that might come. He doesn't, as he's said many times, discuss contracts.

But Gettleman did discuss the roster and other pertinent issues to the 2015 season as the team prepares to report on Thursday to training camp at Wofford College. Excerpts of that interview will run over the next three days.

How would you describe the roster heading into training camp compared to a year ago?

Gettleman: A year ago we tried to remake three positions [wide receiver, offensive line, secondary] on the fly. We're not in that position. Just from that standpoint alone it's a stronger roster. We played a lot of young players the last few years. The game experience they've gotten is huge. We feel we've got a stronger roster than last year.

That being the case, how much tougher will it be to get to 53 players this year than a year ago?

Gettleman: In the 53-man meeting last year, there were only a couple of players we had conversations about. This year it is going to be tougher.

What do you feel best about going into training camp?

Gettleman: We're healthy. We've got great enthusiasm. We talk about culture all the time. I just think where the locker room is, where the leadership is throughout the roster. ...I just like where we're at.

What is your biggest concern going into training camp?

Gettleman: I don't have any great concerns. I really don't. People look at me like I'm crazy. As long as players continue to develop, I have great confidence in Ron [Rivera] and his staff in terms of teaching ability ... Believe me, I don't have sleepless nights.

You've gone from $16 million over the salary cap when you arrived in 2013 to more than $13 million under it. How would you describe the salary-cap situation at Carolina now?

Gettleman: Obviously, we're in a better place. It's still a work in progress like anything else. Having Cam done and under contract through 2020, that gives you cost certainty. The other thing that was huge about getting Cam done was the structure. You see there is no spike. There's no paragraph 5 spike where in 2018, 'Oh, crap, they're going to have to do something.' That structure is important.

There are people screaming, 'Look at the percentage of the cap he's taking now.' But the numbers aren't going to spike. As the cap grows, his percentage drops. We're in a better place.

Take a number. Let's say for discussion a team is $10 million under the cap going into the year. They're really not $10 million under the cap. You've got to take $5 million to $6 million and put it in a savings bond. We can't spend that money. There were a couple of years in New York that we were so tight under the cap that when we had injuries early in the season we could not sign a veteran player. For two years it wasn't until late November when we could actually get a vet. So you've got to have that reserve. So we're obviously in a better place.