Panthers GM Dave Gettleman got a bargain in LT Michael Oher

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Carolina Panthers general manager Dave Gettleman was quick to remind that media and fans “killed me" during the offseason when he signed Michael Oher to play left tackle.

He was just as quick to say that Oher was his best offseason move.

“One of the things you have to do, you have to understand, is you can’t always go from A to Z," Gettleman said on Thursday. “Sometimes, when you’re evaluating players and you’re looking at them, sometimes you can only increase incrementally.

“Michael has been a huge [addition] for us and settled us down."

Oher didn’t look like much of an upgrade over Byron Bell when the Panthers signed the 2009 first-round pick after the Tennessee Titans released him. Critics insisted Gettleman should take a tackle with the 25th pick of the draft.

Gettleman took a linebacker, Shaq Thompson.

Pro Football Focus ranked Oher, the player that the 2009 Hollywood movie “The Blind Side" was written about, 75th among 84 eligible tackles.

PFF gave Oher a grade of 53 out of 80 tackles in 2012, when he played left tackle for the Baltimore Ravens’ Super Bowl team.

Oher's high mark was 15th in 2009, with a grade of plus-17.1.

But Gettleman studied almost three seasons worth of film on Oher. He was convinced that reuniting Oher with former Ravens offensive line coach John Matsko and getting him fully recovered from a toe injury that was a factor in 2014 would pay off.

He was convinced Oher could protect quarterback Cam Newton’s blind side.

He was right.

Oher had a PFF pass blocking efficiency of 95.7 -- four sacks, three hits and 24 hurries – to rank 17th among the 59 eligible tackles.

That made Oher’s two-year, $7 million contract a bargain, considering the 17th-best-paid left tackle (San Diego’s King Dunlap) made $7 million this season.

Oher played his best in the regular-season finale against Tampa Bay, earning a grade of plus-3.4, not allowing a single quarterback pressure. His previous high was 0.5 in Week 8.

“You guys see it," Gettleman said. “You guys have been around Cam his whole career. You see the confidence he has when he sets up behind those five hog mollies. ... It’s a sight to behold."

Oher wasn’t aware of how much heat Gettleman took for signing him. He was more focused on the way his new teammates and the community welcomed him after a tough season at Tennessee.

“All that stuff motivated me with the players and the city," Oher said. “I didn’t want to let the guys down."

He hasn’t. Tight end Greg Olsen said Oher has been “huge for us."

“We learned that pretty fast," the Pro Bowl tight end said. “Just the way he conducted his business."

One of Oher’s strengths has been his work ethic. He’s one of the first to arrive at the stadium during the week, often getting there before daybreak.

He spent most of this bye week trying to improve as the Panthers (15-1) wait to find out who they will play on Jan. 17.

“I’ve still got to get a lot better," Oher said. “People around me have helped me out a lot this year because they’ve done so well. Me as a person, as a player, I still have to get a lot better, just looking at me on film."

He doesn’t want Gettleman or Newton to get killed because of him.