Panthers GM putting reputation on line with veterans Julius Peppers, Mike Adams

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Carolina Panthers general manager Dave Gettleman doesn’t believe in windows of opportunity when it comes to winning a Super Bowl.

His 2017 free-agent signings suggest otherwise.

The Panthers on Friday agreed to terms with 37-year-old defensive end Julius Peppers and signed safety Mike Adams, who soon will turn 36.

That gives them 11 players who are 30 or older, with running back Jonathan Stewart and recently re-signed defensive end Mario Addison set to turn 30 this season.

They are all part of a roster that in September was the third oldest (average age 26.53) in the NFL.

This feels a lot like 1998, when the Panthers -- two offseasons removed from making the NFC Championship Game in just their second season -- added aging veterans Sean Gilbert (franchised free agent), Brent Alexander and William Floyd in free agency a year after adding aging veterans Ernie Mills and Ray Seals.

None was as old as Peppers or Adams, but they were on the back end of their careers.

Like the current class, two offseasons removed from Carolina reaching Super Bowl 50, they had a small window in which to win a title.

The window now might be smaller.

Peppers likely will play only one more season before retiring. Adams has a two-year contract, and it’s doubtful he would get another deal at the age of 37.

They’ll join players such as 33-year-old outside linebacker Thomas Davis and 30-year-old defensive end Charles Johnson.

Davis is entering the final year of his contract with no firm commitment to play beyond this season. Johnson, who will be 31 in July, recently signed a two-year deal that is loaded with incentives on the back end.

The list goes on.

Even quarterback Cam Newton, who will turn 28 in May, is getting to the point that the Panthers realize he can’t be the dual threat he was as a young player.

So what happens with this crop of free agents and in the draft will go a long way toward defining Gettleman’s legacy:

If this leads to a Super Bowl, it will be termed a success and he’ll be immortal in the Carolinas.

If it doesn’t, it could get him fired.

Carolina’s inaugural head coach, Dom Capers, took over personnel matters in 1997. He convinced owner Jerry Richardson that the team was close to reaching the Super Bowl and deals such as giving up two first-round picks for Gilbert would make it happen.

He was fired after going 4-12 in 1998, a year removed from going 7-9.

The older veterans began playing old.

That doesn’t mean it will happen again. Adams insisted he plays much younger than his age.

“So what I have to say to that is stop looking at my bio and watch the film," Adams said to those who say he’s old. “That’s what I have to say to everybody. My body of work and what I’ve done speaks for itself.

“If you see my film and watch my film, you wouldn’t know how old I am."

Adams said the same thing when told Peppers was headed back to Carolina, where Peppers spent his first eight NFL seasons, from 2002 to 2009.

“Stop looking at Julius Peppers bio too," Adams said of the NFL’s fifth all-time leader in sacks (143.5) and Carolina’s all-time leader (81). “Don’t look at his, because his body of work is phenomenal. He’s ballin’. At the end of the day, you can say age all you want. But if you look at the productivity ... just look at that for a second.

“Because when you say to us the age and we start talking about that, it discourages GMs. They get scared upstairs. So y’all got to keep that to a minimal."

General managers gets scared because of the consequences when such moves fail.

That doesn’t mean Gettleman won’t infuse enough young players to build for the future. His trade of defensive end Kony Ealy to New England for the Patriots’ second-round pick gives him three picks in the first two rounds.

But the initial free-agent acquisitions suggest he believes the Panthers are closer to the 15-1 2015 team that made the Super Bowl than the one that went 6-10 a year ago.

They suggest he’s trying to take advantage of a window of opportunity he doesn’t believe exists.