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GM controls Panthers’ future success

I know this is Redskins & Cowboys country and I applaud the sometimes rabid enthusiasm these area fans have for their teams whether maroon and gold or royal blue and silver.

Well, my team’s the Carolina Panthers and after making NFL history by becoming the first NFC South Division champ to repeat by rising from the dead like the Phoenix, then winning their first playoff game since 2005 by knocking off a quality wild-card team (again, like the Phoenix – only this time I’m talking about the Cardinals!), it’s time to look forward to 2015 and before I break out my Super Bowl pom-poms let me suggest a few things I think General Manager Dave Gettleman needs to consider this offseason.

Gettleman actually met with the Charlotte media Tuesday and took questions and vowed not to let his personal feelings come into play during the off-season.

“If you’re emotional about your decision, you’re going to really do something stupid,” Gettleman said, according to the Charlotte Observer.

Attaboy, Dave.  Now here’re five of my “unemotional” suggestions of what I’d do in the next few days and months if I were collecting that fat paycheck you’re getting from Mr. Richardson.

1. Release DeAngelo Williams and Byron Bell. In many ways, this should be one of the Panthers’ simplest decisions because letting the franchise rushing leader go no longer forces a major salary-cap hit. Williams is 31 and the fourth-best running back on the roster. It’s time. You also have to have a better offensive line, and let’s face it, pass rushers came crashing down on Cam Newton way too often from the blind side this season. Byron Bell’s an unrestricted free agent, so releasing him ought to be easy.

3. Sign a tackle then draft another one. Releasing Bell complicates this a little bit, but that’s also something you didn’t do in 2014, Dave, with all the retirements and defections and, yes, I understand you had to do it “on the cheap” (Charlotte ain’t Chicago!). Not putting a draft choice or some major free-agent money into the tackle position was a mistake that can’t happen again. I’m not asking for a starter, just a solid back-up. Sign one possible left tackle in free agency and draft another tackle high, maybe even with that Number-25 overall pick. Give Cam more protection, and he’ll get better.

4. Don’t completely ignore the dollar store. You said during your news conference Tuesday, “Last year we were shopping in the dollar store. This year we’ll be able to move up in class a little bit.” That’s good news, because the Panthers don’t need any more Tiquan Underwoods. But the Panthers also have to find some bargains so don’t lose all your pennies, Dave; a stop at the dollar store is still a good idea. I’d just try to spend just enough money to upgrade that God-awful special-teams and return units.

5. Make inroads with signing Cam.  On Dec. 6, when the Panthers were 3-8-1, pundits were saying Newton hadn’t proven he was worth a $100 million contract extension. Then Carolina won five straight games (Cam quarterbacking four of them) and lost to Seattle in the NFL’s quarterfinals. Face it, Cam looked a lot better in December and January than he did in November. And as I survey the field of possible free-agent and college quarterbacks out there, after Mariotta and Winston, it’s kinda iffy. When Cam’s healthy, Carolina is better at quarterback than at least three-quarters of the other NFL teams. I’m going to stop short of calling him a “franchise quarterback” because he does have some problems (mechanics, decision-making, consistency), but Cam’s a sensitive kid and you need to make him feel wanted; just don’t hamstring the entire franchise to sign him. And, oh yeah, take him out to the Speedway this winter and send him thru the Richard Petty Driving School.

Like Coach Ron Rivera said Tuesday, the Panthers could take a big step and get to the Super Bowl in 2015. But much of that depends on what you do the next four months, Dave. Me and a lotta Panther fans are pulling for ya!

Gene Motley is a Staff Writer for Roanoke-Chowan Publications. He can be contacted at gene.motley@r-cnews.com or 252-332-7207.