Here’s my take on what Carolina Panthers general manager Dave Gettleman and head coach Ron Rivera said on Thursday at the NFL combine in Indianapolis.
Regarding defensive end Greg Hardy: Neither really said anything and indicated they don’t intend to as long as Hardy remains on the commissioner’s exempt list. Hardy had the domestic violence charges against him dropped on Feb. 9 because accuser Nicole Holder would not cooperate with the district attorney’s office after receiving what that office determined was a financial settlement. Hardy becomes an unrestricted free agent on March 10, but the NFL is conducting its own investigation to determine if he broke the personal conduct code. The Panthers have no plans to re-sign Hardy, although there are those within the organization who would like him back.
Perhaps Gettleman offered the best clue about this when asked about considering draft prospects that have had domestic violence issues. "This game is too hard ... Who wants a ticking time bomb? I don’t think it’s going to change. Every organization I’ve ever been with ... they’ll stay away from the characters, guys that have character issues and the potential to continue those issues. This is too hard to have to worry about that."
Despite having the charges dropped after being found guilty in July by a Mecklenburg County judge, one could argue Hardy falls into the "ticking time bomb" category.
Regarding running back DeAngelo Williams: Gettleman acknowledged that he has talked to the team’s all-time leading running back since the season ended. He wouldn’t comment on whether Williams will be with the team in 2015. Considering he took a similar stance with all-time leading receiver Steve Smith last year, and considering Williams will be 32 in 2015 with a high salary-cap figure ($6.3 million), releasing him becomes a strong possibility.
There’s also a chance Williams returns at a discounted price. If you remember, Gettleman only met with Smith last season to tell him he was being released. That he plans future talks with Williams could mean a restructured deal.
Regarding left tackle Byron Bell: Gettleman wouldn’t get into the team’s plans for Bell, an unrestricted free agent. Neither would Rivera, other than to say Bell did some "nice things" in 2014. Bell also graded out next-to-last among tackles rated by Pro Football Focus. The best Bell should expect is to be re-signed at a low salary to compete for a job on the right side, where he played prior to 2014. He won’t be in demand as a left tackle on the open market.
Regarding what the Panthers will do with the 25th pick in the draft: No surprise here. Gettleman says Carolina will take the best player available. Fortunately for Gettleman, the draft is stacked at the two positions -- offensive tackle and a speed wide receiver -- where the Panthers have the biggest needs. Also don’t rule out Gettleman taking another defensive tackle. Though he didn’t mention names, Gettleman said the draft is deeper at tackle and wide receiver than a year ago, when both positions were pretty deep. Gettleman particularly likes the depth at receiver. "It’s pretty darn deep," he said. "All shapes and sizes. Whatever you’re looking for you should be able to find."
Regarding quarterback Cam Newton: Nothing was mentioned regarding a long-term deal for the first pick of the 2011 draft, but Rivera did say the Panthers aren’t in the market for a quarterback at Indianapolis. That’s not a surprise. Rivera and Gettleman said Newton remained their quarterback of the future after the season. Rivera said he recently met with Newton, who is on target to graduate from Auburn in May. He commented on how Newton is as healthy as he’s been in a very long time. This time last year Newton was about to have surgery on his left ankle that would sideline him for offseason workouts.