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Panthers GM has better record with draft picks than UFAs

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- General manager Dave Gettleman received many accolades for the way he built the Carolina Panthers during this past season’s run to the Super Bowl.

In terms of signing unrestricted free agents, which Gettleman and the rest of the NFL can begin doing today at 4 p.m. ET, it’s been more hit and miss.

Gettleman has signed 14 unrestricted free agents since taking over in 2013. Only two that were signed as UFAs currently are on the roster. There likely would have been a few more had the Panthers not been strapped under the salary cap when Gettleman arrived.

The 14 doesn’t include wide receiver Ted Ginn. He was signed as an unrestricted free agent in 2013, went to Arizona in 2014 and was released a year ago. He was not a UFA when Gettleman signed him to his current deal.

The same goes for left tackle Michael Oher, who was released by Tennessee while still under contract.

Seven of Gettleman’s 14 UFAs became starters. Three were released prior to playing a down in a regular-season game. Another was released during the season.

The biggest success stories are safeties. Mike Mitchell played well enough in 2013 that he was given a five-year deal by Pittsburgh the following season. Kurt Coleman led the Panthers in interceptions this past season.

Backup quarterback Joe Webb and tight end Ed Dickson played well enough to earn a second -- and in the case of Webb on Tuesday -- third deal with Carolina. Mitchell likely would have been re-signed as well had Gettleman had more cap space.

But what stands out the most is that Gettleman hasn’t spent big on anybody. The average yearly salary has been just over $1.1 million. He’s yet to pay more than $2.5 million a season for a player.

Gettleman has saved the big bucks for re-signing his own free agents. He also hasn’t rushed into signing UFAs, letting the market settle before making a play. Here’s a complete look at Gettleman’s brief history at signing UFAs:

2015

• S Kurt Coleman (Two years, $2.8 million) -- Perhaps the best bargain of the 2015 offseason and Gettleman’s best UFA signing in three years. Led Carolina with seven interceptions during the regular season. Returned one for a touchdown.

• CB Charles Tillman (One year, $1.75 million) -- Started 12 games but ultimately had his season ended by a knee injury. Was a nice stopgap at corner opposite Josh Norman, but at 35 likely not to be re-signed.

• LB Jason Trusnik (One year, $950,000) -- Was released before the season.

2014

• CB Antoine Cason (One year, $795,000) -- Was released 12 games into the season after starting 11.

• WR Jerricho Cotchery (Two years, $5 million) -- Started 16 games in two seasons. Caught 87 passes for 1,065 yards and four touchdowns. Filled a leadership role the past two years, but at 33 won’t be back in 2016.

• TE Ed Dickson (One year, $730,000) -- Caught 10 passes for 115 yard and a touchdown in his first season. But played well enough that after the season he was re-signed to a three-year deal worth $6.8 million.

• WR Tiquan Underwood (Two years, $2.1 million) -- Released prior to the season. Hasn’t made a roster since. Probably Gettleman’s worst UFA signing.

• QB Joe Webb (One year, $635,000) -- Signed to help simulate what Cam Newton does in the running game while Newton recovered from offseason ankle surgery. A reserve wide receiver and special teams contributor as well. Signed a one-year, $825,000 for the 2015 season and signed a two-year deal on Tuesday.

2013

• LB Chase Blackburn (Two years, $2,050,000) -- Played in 19 games and started nine. Had 39 tackles in two seasons before injuries basically ended his career.

• CB Drayton Florence (One year, $940,000) -- Started five games and played in 14. Had two interceptions. An aging veteran that filled a nice role.

• WR Ted Ginn Jr. (One year, $1.1 million) -- Caught 36 passes for 556 yard and five touchdowns in 2013. Signed a three-year, $9.75 million deal with Arizona during the offseason. Signed a two-year deal to return to Carolina after being released a year ago.

• WR Domenik Hixon (One year, $1,162,500) -- Caught seven passes for 55 yards and a touchdown. Signed with Chicago during the offseason and retired after suffering a knee injury.

• SS Mike Mitchell (One year, $1 million) -- Started 14 games in 2013, and then signed a five-year, $25 million deal with Pittsburgh.

• CB D.J. Moore (One year, $550,000) -- Released seven months after signing.