Carolina Panthers Rumors & News

Panthers Sign Trai Turner To Extension

It didn’t take long for acting GM Marty Hurney to get to work. The Panthers have agreed to an extension with offensive guard Trai Turner. "<strong

Beyond excited today!!,” Turner tweeted. “Thank you to Mr. [Jerry] Richardson and the Panther family, I’ll be a Panther for four more years!!!

The four-year deal is worth $45MM with $20.5MM guaranteed, a source tells ESPN.com’s Adam Schefter (on Twitter). The deal gives Turner a yearly average of $11.25MM per year and will enable him to be a free agent again at the age of 28.

Turner’s new deal gives him the third-highest yearly average of any guard in the NFL. Next year’s guard market will likely see the top guys eclipse Kevin Zeitler‘s $12MM/year average, so it’s a solid deal for the Panthers from a cap perspective. Meanwhile, Turner should be in position for another mega contract just as he enters his prime.

Turner, a former third round pick, was previously set to play out the 2017 season at a $1.931MM cap number. Presumably, the new deal will kick in starting with the 2018 season, giving him a sizable pay bump while keeping him under Panthers control through the 2021 campaign.

Any time you’re able to secure someone like Trai, a two-time Pro Bowler and a staple of our offensive line, you’re very fortunate,” Hurney said in a statement. “The offensive line is a key to the team’s success and Trai is a very integral part of that. We’re extremely excited to have Trai under contract for the next five seasons.”

The ceiling for guards has been pushed higher thanks to recent free agent contracts inked by Zeitler (five years, $60MM) and Kelechi Osemele (five years, $58.5MM). Guards like Joel Bitonio (five years, $51.2MM), David DeCastro (five years, $50MM), Kyle Long (four years, $40MM), and Laurent Duvernay-Tardif (five years, $42.4MM) also did their part by signing lucrative extensions with their respective teams.

Turner, 24, has started in every possible game over the last two years, earning back-to-back Pro Bowl nods. The advanced metrics at Pro Football Focus only gave him a so-so 72.2 overall score last season, placing him as just the 38th best guard in the NFL, but the Panthers believe he’s a much better player than that. In 2015, PFF rated Turner as one of the very best guards in the league.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Graham Gano On Roster Bubble

  • Panthers kicker Graham Gano is on the bubble thanks to the addition of seventh-round pick Harrison Butker, David Newton of ESPN.com writes. The selection of the Georgia Tech product was the first time the Panthers have ever drafted a place kicker and it’s a sign that they could be moving on from the veteran. Gano missed several big kicks last season and converted on just 78.9% of his attempts.

Panthers Release Michael Oher

Michael Oher has been released by the Panthers with a failed physical designation, the team announced. The move has been anticipated for some time. Michael Oher (Vertical)

The reason for Oher’s failed physical has not been released, but odds are that Oher was cut due to complications stemming from the brain trauma he has suffered as of late. When considering Oher’s concussion history and erratic off-the-field behavior, it’s clear that Oher has bigger fish to fry before he worries about resurrecting his football career. It’s worth noting that Oher has been in the league’s concussion protocol since September, and no player has ever been in protocol this long and managed to return to live action.

By cutting Oher, the Panthers will save $1.69MM against the cap. Meanwhile, Oher will qualify for injury compensation.

In 2015, Oher appeared in all 16 regular season games for the Panthers graded out as a top-30 offensive tackle, according to Pro Football Focus. The Panthers rewarded him with a three-year, $21.6MM extension, but that deal has not worked out for Carolina. He was sidelines after three games in 2016 and formally placed on IR around Thanksgiving.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Panthers Notes: Olsen, Gettleman, Hurney

Despite what Marty Hurney says, Joseph Person of the Charlotte Observer isn’t convinced that he’ll leave after one year if the Panthers wind up making the playoffs. Of course, if the Panthers fall flat and finish with a losing record again, it’s likely that the team follows through on the plan to hire a successor.

  • Panthers tight end Greg Olsen says contract talks with Dave Gettleman were never contentious and he doesn’t believe that Gettleman’s negotiations with him or Thomas Davis were tipping points in his standing with the team (Twitter links via Person). Olsen added that he never had a problem with Gettleman and says he respects the fact that he stuck to his guns in contract dealings. Some believe that Olsen is more likely to get the revised deal that he is seeking now that Hurney is in charge. For what it’s worth, Hurney says he is going to be more practical and less emotional in his second stint running the Panthers.

Panthers Notes: Beane, Hurney, Williams

  • Brandon Beane, who spent 19 years in Carolina’s front office before taking over as the Bills’ general manager in May, endorses the Panthers’ decision to bring in Marty Hurney as the interim GM. “Hiring Marty is an excellent move for the Panthers,” Beane told David Newton of ESPN.com. “He knows the organization inside and out and has great relationships with many people in their front office and coaching staff. I wish him nothing but the best in his return to Carolina.” Most of Beane’s tenure in Carolina was spent working under Hurney, who first served as the team’s GM from 2002-12.
  • Free agent running back DeAngelo Williams would be willing to pull a Hurney and return to the Panthers, with whom he played from 2006-14, but the club should stay away, argues Scott Fowler of the Charlotte Observer. Not only do the Panthers have a full complement of running backs (Jonathan Stewart, Christian McCaffrey, Curtis Samuel, Fozzy Whittaker and Cameron Artis-Payne), but Fowler points out that Williams has badmouthed the Panthers since his departure and, at 34 years old, has taken a pounding during his career.

Panthers’ Marty Hurney On His New Role

Marty Hurney is back in charge of the Panthers, but he told reporters on Wednesday afternoon that he will not seek to parlay his interim GM role into the full-time position. But, until the job is filled by another executive, Hurney have will full say over the 53-man roster. He’ll be instrumental in helping to find the team’s new GM, but the organization will not target candidates until after the season is through.

Hurney also believes that he has the trust of owner Jerry Richardson to make both short and long term decisions for the team, including contracts that may extend beyond the 2017 season.

Here’s a look at some more highlights from today’s presser. All links go to Jordan Rodrigue and Joseph Person of the Charlotte Observer on Twitter, unless noted otherwise:

Marty Hurney (vertical)

On talks that he is too old or too far removed from the job:

I wouldn’t come here if I didn’t think I had the energy, the knowledge and the insight it will take to help this organization.” (link)

On whether the firing of Dave Gettleman was a rash decision by the Panthers:

I can tell you knowing Jerry Richardson, rash decisions aren’t made. It’s about winning games.” (link)

On how he’ll approach the job differently this time:

I want the analytical part of my brain to take over the emotional part of my brain. Some mistakes may have been due to that.” (link)

On Gettleman:

Dave Gettleman did a terrific job and I never lost pride in this organization.” (link)

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFL: Panthers Did Not Violate Rooney Rule

When the Panthers hired Marty Hurney to be the team’s interim GM without first interviewing any minority candidates, some wondered if the team was in violation of the Rooney Rule. Apparently, that’s not the case. The NFL tells ESPN.com’s David Newton (Twitter link) that the Panthers did not run afoul of the mandate since Hurney has only been given the job on an interim basis.

When the Panthers hire their true GM down the line, they will be required to satisfy the Rooney Rule. That mandate still applies, even if Hurney somehow winds up being the full-time hire.

It’s conceivable that the league will look to close this loophole next offseason. Recently, the NFL “informally” extended the Rooney Rule to also cover offensive and defensive coordinator positions.

Latest On Panthers, Hurney, Gettleman

Here’s a look at the Panthers:

  • Former Panthers GM Dave Gettleman was known to be a jerk in contract meetings if he didn’t get his way, sources tell Jordan Rodrigue of the Charlotte Observer. However, Rodrigue argues that it’s not entirely fair to vilify Gettleman for the way things sometimes played out in those negotiations. Her feeling is that an NFL franchise needs something of a good cop/bad cop act in order to satisfy players while also keeping cap restrictions in mind. Gettleman’s job was to be mindful of the finances, and he did a good job of that after inheriting a salary cap nightmare. That enabled owner Jerry Richardson to have positive relationships with his players and create a largely welcoming culture. Eventually, these two approaches clashed to the point where Richardson felt the need to fire Gettleman just days before training camp.
  • The firing of Gettleman took Panthers coach Ron Rivera by surprise, as Scott Fowler of the Charlotte Observer writes. “The decision was made, and that’s what we’re going to do,” Rivera said. “The biggest thing is Dave did a great job for us. He helped me to grow as a coach, he helped to put the final pieces of the puzzle together and he helped us get to the Super Bowl.” Although a major change is being made in the front office, Rivera is reportedly safe. And, for the next year, Marty Hurney will be back at the helm. Hurney first hired Rivera back in 2011.
  • Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk wonders if the Panthers could run into some issues with Rooney Rule compliance. The Rooney Rule stipulates that at least one minority candidate must be interviewed for a major role such as GM, but the team seemingly conducted a one-man search before giving the job to Hurney. Before the hire was made official, Fritz Pollard Alliance chairman John Wooten told Joseph Person of the Charlotte Observer that the “interim” designation was a new wrinkle for them, but he still hoped that Richardson would follow protocol.

Panthers Hire Marty Hurney As Interim GM

What’s old is new in Carolina. The Panthers have officially appointed Marty Hurney as their interim GM. Marty Hurney (vertical)

I never lost the connection with the organization,” said Hurney, who worked for the Panthers from 1998-2012 with the final ten years spent as GM. “I’ve gained a lot of perspective and have looked at things in different ways. I think I can help this team in a lot of areas. I think I’ve grown. And I feel I’m better prepared to come in this time and do a better job than I did over the 12 years I was general manager last time.”

In the wake of Dave Gettleman‘s firing, a number of highly-respected rising front office stars were floated out as potential replacements. But, because of the unusual timing, the Panthers felt the need to install someone immediately in a temporary capacity. The Panthers will have Hurney at the helm for 2017 before possibly looking into executives like Trent Kirchner of the Seahawks, Ryan Cowden of the Titans, and their own Don Gregory. When they do begin interviewing candidates, Hurney “will help the team identify its next general manager,” per the team’s press release.

Hurney, who will be leaving his post at ESPN Radio in Charlotte to take the job, knows the roster pretty intimately. He was responsible for bringing in some of the Panthers’ biggest stars, including team captains Cam Newton, Luke Kuechly, Thomas Davis, Greg Olsen, Ryan Kalil, and Charles Johnson. He’s also the man who hired head coach Ron Rivera in 2011.

His relationships with Davis and Olsen could have a major influence on their contract situations this offseason. Davis, 34, is entering the final year of his deal and has been pushing for an extension. Olsen, meanwhile, has two years to go on his deal but is hoping to get a reworked contract that will make him one of the league’s highest paid tight ends.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Panthers Likely To Name Marty Hurney Interim GM

The Panthers are set to bring back former general manager Marty Hurney to take over for the fired David Gettleman. Hurney is meeting with Panthers owner Jerry Richardson, according to NFL.com’s Tom Pelissero, who reports that the club will hire Hurney on an interim basis if the interview goes well. Hurney would run the Panthers through 2017, and the team would use that time to vet full-time candidates (Twitter link).

Marty Hurney

Hurney works for ESPN Radio in Charlotte, but he previously served as the Panthers’ GM from 2002-12 and oversaw three playoff teams – one of which earned a Super Bowl berth. The Panthers went just 80-85 during that span, but Hurney was nonetheless responsible for bringing in a few of their current linchpins in Cam Newton, Luke Kuechly, Thomas Davis and Greg Olsen.

In reuniting with Hurney, the Panthers would pass on reported GM candidates in their own director of college scouting, Jeff Morrow, Titans director of player personnel Ryan Cowden and Bills assistant GM Joe Schoen. However, those three (and others) could still be possibilities down the line for the Panthers, who look poised to turn to Hurney, head coach Ron Rivera and director of team administration/salary cap specialist Rob Rogers in a temporary power structure, as Albert Breer of The MMQB tweets.

Photo courtesy of Getty Images.