Scott Fitterer

Panthers Eyeing OL Trades

Panthers general manager Scott Fitterer has made 13 trades since taking on the role in January (via Scott Fowler of the Charlotte Observer). If the GM has his way, his 14th trade will address the team’s offensive line issues. Fitterer told reporters that he’s called around about OL trades but hasn’t found a taker, noting that teams aren’t even willing to consider dealing their backups (via The Athletic’s Joe Person on Twitter).

[RELATED: Patriots Trade Stephon Gilmore To Panthers]

“I mean, it’s not like there are offensive linemen available,” the executive said (via Fowler). “I think every team’s in the same situation we are. … There’s just not a lot of offensive linemen on the market right now. No one’s letting them out (the door) — even their backups.”

Quarterback Sam Darnold was hit 11 times and sacked five times during Sunday’s loss to the Cowboys. If the Panthers have playoff aspirations, they’ll need to keep their starting QB healthy, and reinforcing the offensive line would certainly help.

As Darin Gantt of the team’s website points out, the Panthers were forced to play a pair of injured OLs (left tackle Cameron Erving (knee) and right guard John Miller (shoulder)) on Sunday. While some acquisitions would certainly help, head coach Matt Rhule seemed to indicate that improved health could solve the offensive line’s issues.

“I think a lot of it comes down to who’s healthy when we get to Wednesday,” Rhule said (via Gantt). “Those guys, while it’s not always perfect, they’re playing hard for us while they’ve been banged up. I appreciate the way they’re playing. We’ll see what we do moving forward this week, see who’s healthy, see who’s available, and take full stock of where we are.”

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Panthers Hire Former LB Dan Morgan As Assistant GM

Dan Morgan is heading back to Carolina, this time in a front office role. The Panthers announced that they’ve hired the former Pro Bowl linebacker as their new assistant general manager.

The 2001 first-round pick spent the first seven seasons of his career with Carolina, including a 2004 campaign where he made his lone Pro Bowl appearance. He ranks 12th all-time in Panthers history in solo tackles, finishing his Panthers career with 284. Morgan also had a standout performance in Super Bowl XXXVIII, finishing with a game-high 18 tackles in a three-point loss to the Patriots.

Following his playing career, Morgan joined the Seahawks front office, where he had an opportunity to work alongside current Panthers GM Scott Fitterer. As Morgan told the team website, Fitterer served as a pseudo-mentor as Morgan became acclimated with his front office gig.

“He was very helpful to me when I first got there,” Morgan said. “All those guys were really good with me early on, but he took me under his wing when I was new and was willing to let me pick his brain about college scouting and what he did.”

Morgan eventually moved on to Buffalo, and he had served as the Bills’ director of player personnel (alongside former Panthers assistant GM and current Bills GM Brandon Beane) since 2018. Ultimately, Morgan’s familiarity with the Panthers organization probably gave him an advantage during the hiring process.

Fitterer had recently been ramping up his search for an assistant GM. Eagles director of player personnel Ian Cunningham, former Colts interim GM Jimmy Raye III, and former Panthers tight end tight end Jeff King were also considered for the role.

Matt Rhule To Control Panthers’ Roster

The Panthers ended their expansive GM search by hiring longtime Seahawks executive Scott Fitterer. While this will be a key jump for the veteran personnel man, he will transition from one organization where the head coach has considerable power to another.

Matt Rhule confirmed he will have control of Carolina’s roster, though the second-year HC indicated Fitterer will obviously have tremendous responsibilities in this area as well.

I think in terms of on the contract, a lot of those things probably rest with me,” Rhule said, via Darin Gantt of Panthers.com. “But that’s not something I’m real interested in. I think it’s kind of a formality. Scott’s here to run the personnel. He’s here to build the roster. He’s here to establish the draft process. I think some things are written into the contract, but I think we’re going to work collaboratively and work together.”

Fitterer likened this situation as a Seahawks-esque partnership, where Pete Carroll and John Schneider work in tandem. Though Carroll maintains final say, which led to the Lions considering a Schneider pursuit earlier this year.

In the beginning, Pete was really in charge. But through no egos and the collaboration and the trust and the deep conversations they’ve had, Pete has opened up, and it’s really a partnership. It’s really a marriage between the two, and I’ve never seen an argument between them,” Fitterer said.

They can challenge each other; they can have discussions. But in the end, they’ve always been in lockstep, and I think that’s important for a GM and a coach to have. That’s what I think it’s going to be like here. Matt’s been great so far, and it’s only going to grow from here.”

Panthers owner David Tepper indicated he sought an experienced exec who could help Rhule while he acclimates to the NFL. Fitterer having worked with Carroll as he transitioned back to the pro game was a factor in the hire as well, Joe Person of The Athletic tweets. The Panthers gave Rhule a seven-year, $63MM deal in 2020, so it certainly makes sense they will entrust him with their biggest decisions.

Fitterer stopped short of committing to Teddy Bridgewater as the Panthers’ 2021 starter, though the new GM was not specific regarding many players. Fitterer did say he sought a quarterback “who could win with the game on the line in the fourth quarter,” and as ESPN.com’s David Newton points out, Bridgewater was 0-8 in games in which he had a go-ahead or game-tying drive chance on the final possession.

The Panthers are set to make a run at Deshaun Watson, if the Texans make him available. They also have the No. 7 overall pick, putting them in position to draft Bridgewater’s eventual successor.

Trade-downs may well be coming to the Panthers soon. The Seahawks have consistently used their late-first-round draft perches to move down and accumulate capital. Fitterer said a line of demarcation between drafts’ top-tier and second-tier prospects usually falls around picks 16-18 and that there are not major talent disparities between players who fall between Nos. 25-40 on respective big boards (Twitter link via Person). This approach, which will not apply this year considering the Panthers pick seventh, will come not long after the franchise went five drafts (2013-17) without ever trading down under Dave Gettleman.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Panthers To Hire Scott Fitterer As GM

Scott Fitterer surfaced late in Carolina’s GM search, but he is now expected to be the team’s new GM. The Panthers intend to hire the Seahawks executive to succeed Marty Hurney, according to NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport and Tom Pelissero (on Twitter).

Fitterer, whom the Seahawks promoted in September, interviewed twice for the Panthers position this week. He joined a host of candidates in a wide-ranging search but is in line to team with Matt Rhule to oversee Carolina’s rebuild effort.

The Panthers brought in Fitterer, Titans exec Monti Ossenfort, Chiefs staffer Ryan Poles and 49ers VP of player personnel Adam Peters for second interviews this week. Fitterer has hovered on the GM radar a bit longer than the rest of this contingent, and the Seahawks’ VP of player personnel will receive a chance to lead another NFC franchise’s front office.

Fitterer has been with the Seahawks for nearly 20 years, predating John Schenider and Pete Carroll‘s arrivals in beginning his run with the franchise in 2001. The Seahawks promoted him to co-player personnel director in 2015 and gave him a new title last year. Fitterer was involved in the Jets’ GM search in 2019, along with the Chiefs’ and Colts’ search processes in 2017. That year, Fitterer also interviewed for the 49ers’ GM job that went to John Lynch.

Alongside fellow Schneider lieutenant Trent Kirchner, Fitterer helped the Seahawks become Super Bowl champions and two-time NFC champs during the 2010s. Rhule is locked down via seven-year contract, so it would not surprise to see Fitterer receive a six-year deal — which would match Rhule’s through-2026 accord — as Carolina continues a rebuild that began last year.

GM/HC Notes: Colbert, Panthers, Jets, Smith

Here is the latest from the GM/head coach carousels. Five GM vacancies and seven HC openings remain as of Wednesday afternoon.

  • Before making his way to Pittsburgh, Kevin Colbert spent many seasons in Detroit. The Lions have been connected to making a push for a Colbert Motor City return, but they have not asked the Steelers for permission to interview him, Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette tweets. The Steelers gave Colbert an extension last year. After working with the Lions throughout the 1990s as their pro scouting director, Colbert has been with his hometown Steelers since 2000.
  • The Panthers continue to go through second interviews. After meeting with 49ers exec Adam Peters and Titans staffer Monti Ossenfort again this week, Carolina brought back Chiefs assistant player personnel director Ryan Poles and met again with Seahawks VP of football operations Scott Fitterer. Poles is one of a few Chiefs execs to receive interest this offseason, while Fitterer has been on the GM interview circuit for a few years. The Seahawks promoted him in September.
  • The Jets finished up Robert Saleh‘s second interview Wednesday but appear set to identify more finalists soon. They want to speak with Titans OC Arthur Smith again, according to Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports (on Twitter). The Jets are not alone in pursuing Smith, who has interviewed for six HC jobs thus far. The Falcons are also high on the second-year OC.
  • Although Brian Daboll has not completed quite as extensive an itinerary as Smith has, he has impressed the Jets. Gang Green is high on the third-year Bills OC, according to Ralph Vacchiano of SNY. Daboll met with the Jets on Sunday. He cannot meet with the team in person until the Bills’ season concludes.

2021 NFL General Manager Search Tracker

This year’s NFL GM carousel figures to be more active than usual. The Falcons, Lions, Panthers, Texans, and Jaguars are all on the hunt for a new front office leader. And that’s only the official list. The real tally shows six clubs looking for a GM, since the Washington Football Team is expected to install a GM to work alongside head coach Ron Rivera. By mid-January, we could easily see a couple more jobs opening up — that’d put ~25% of the NFL on the market.

We’ll keep track of the GM candidates for each club here, along with their current status. If and when other teams decide to make general manager changes, they’ll be added to this list. Here’s the current breakdown:

Updated 1-19-21 (7:02pm CT)

Atlanta Falcons

Carolina Panthers 

Denver Broncos

Detroit Lions

Houston Texans

Jacksonville Jaguars

Washington Football Team

Panthers Plan Second Interviews With Monti Ossenfort, Adam Peters

The Panthers continue to conduct an expansive general manager search. They are conducting second interviews with multiple candidates while also still meeting with execs for the first time.

On the second-interview front, Titans player personnel director Monti Ossenfort and 49ers VP of player personnel Adam Peters are the first two candidates set to meet with the Panthers again. Each is meeting with the Panthers for a second time, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com, who notes the team may opt to conduct more second interviews (Twitter link).

A former Broncos exec, Peters has been with the 49ers since 2017. Ossenfort was on GM radars previously as a Patriots staffer. He relocated to Tennessee just last year. Neither Ossenfort nor Peters has met with another team during this GM interview cycle. The Panthers expect to have a new GM this week.

Seemingly nearing the end of their first stage of interviews, the Panthers brought in Seahawks VP of football operations Scott Fitterer and Steelers VP of football and business administration Omar Khan this week. While Fitterer has been on the GM carousel for a few years now, joining fellow Seahawks exec Trent Kirchner in that regard, this marks his first interview in this cycle. The Seahawks promoted both in September.

Khan has not received as many interview summons in the past but was believed to be close to landing the Texans’ GM job. The search firm the Texans used recommended Khan, but owner Cal McNair — after some last-minute input from executive VP Jack Easterby — made longtime GM target Nick Caserio a big offer to leave New England. Caserio also interviewed with the Panthers.

Khan was believed to be negotiating a contract with the Texans when the Caserio news emerged. Khan has overseen Steelers contracts for years now, frequently creating cap space for a perennially cap-strapped franchise. David Tepper is familiar with Khan from his days as a part owner of the Steelers.

The Panthers have now interviewed a whopping 15 candidates, with two of those thus far receiving second summits. Caserio, Vikings GM George Paton and Colts assistant GM Ed Dodds are out of the mix. But many remain involved in Carolina’s latest GM search.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Seahawks Promote Scott Fitterer, Trent Kirchner

Two longtime Seahawks execs have received new titles and, presumably, pay bumps. Scott Fitterer is now the team’s Vice President of Football Operations while Trent Kirchner has been elevated to Vice President of Player Personnel (Twitter link via NFL.com’s Tom Pelissero).

Seahawks GM John Schneider brought Kirchner to Seattle as the team’s assistant director of pro personnel in 2010. In 2013, Kirchner was promoted to director of player personnel before moving to co-Director of Player Personnel in 2015. Fitterer started with Seattle in 2001 and followed a similar trajectory up the ladder, teaming with Kirchner as the co-DPP in ’15.

They’ve been an integral part of the Seahawks’ success over the years, and the rest of the league has taken notice. Kirchner was one of the hottest names in the 2017 GM cycle, drawing consideration from the Panthers, Colts, and 49ers. Fitterer has also gotten lots of calls, including the Chiefs (2017) and the Jets (2019). For the time being, the Seahawks will hold on to both execs.

Browns To Interview Ed Dodds For GM Opening

We’ve got our first known candidate for the Browns’ general manager vacancy. NFL.com’s Tom Pelissero reports (via Twitter) that the organization has requested permission to interview Colts assistant GM Ed Dodds. Albert Breer of The MMQB tweets that the Colts have granted the Browns permission to interview the executive.

Perhaps even more notably, NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport reports (via Twitter) that Browns head coaching candidate (and current 49ers defensive coordinator) Robert Saleh showed interest in being paired with Dodds in Cleveland. Saleh and Dodds both worked together during their stint in Seattle. Rapoport adds that

Dodds was considered one of the top scouts in the NFL during his 10 seasons in Seattle. During his time with the Seahawks, he served in a variety of roles, including senior personnel executive. Dodds joined the Colts back in 2017, and he was promoted to assistant GM the following year.

We heard earlier today that the organization was starting to ramp up their efforts to find a replacement for John Dorsey, who the team parted ways with in late December. While the order of operations may sound a bit weird, the Browns had always planned to complete their head coaching search before hiring a GM.

Dodds is the first known contender for the GM opening, and it sounds like the Browns organization has an affinity for former Seahawks executives. We previously heard that Seattle’s co-directors of player personnel, Trent Kirchner and Scott Fitterer, are two well-respected executives who could emerge as leading candidates for the GM gig. Rapoport tweets that the duo could also be paired with Saleh, as could 49ers vice president of player personnel Adam Peters.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Browns Notes: GM Search, DePodesta, McCarthy, Saleh, Daboll

While the primary focus in Cleveland remains on their search for a new head coach, according to Mike Garafolo of NFL Network, the Browns could have their eyes on a pair of front-office employees with the Seahawks for their general managerial opening. Via Garafolo’s report, Seattle’s co-directors of player personnel, Trent Kirchner and Scott Fitterer, are two well-respected executives that could emerge as leading candidates.

Here’s more notes from the Browns organization:

  • NFL.com’s Ian Rapaport noted that two head coaching candidates in the Browns search that align with Kirchner and Fitterer are former Packers head coach Mike McCarthy and 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh. McCarthy’s connection to the two Seattle executives is unclear, but Saleh started his coaching career in Seattle and has built his defensive scheme upon the Seahawks 4-3 at the peak of the “Legion of Boom.”
  • The Browns pushed back their interview with Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll for Cleveland’s head coaching position, according to Ian Rapaport of NFL.com. Daboll remains a candidate, but since the Bills were eliminated from the playoffs in Saturday’s overtime loss to the Texans, the team decided to delay his interview to this week so he could meet more of the team’s current front office staff.
  • Browns chief strategist Paul DePodesta has been the center of a lot of coverage surrounding the power struggle in Cleveland. The onetime assistant general manager of the Oakland Athletics is spearheading the Browns head coach search, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN, but is not under contract with the team beyond next week. With that said, DePodesta is still wanted in Cleveland and the team may want to extend the executive at the same time of the team’s general manager and head coaching hires to put the organization on the same page.