If former Panthers General Manager Marty Hurney had a blind spot, it might have been hanging on too long to the team’s established stars, and paying them too much money.
New G.M. Dave Gettleman seems intent on not repeating that pattern, and it’s creating his first real crisis in charge.
Things appear to be coming to a head with veteran wide receiver Steve Smith, who is a little salty that the team has been talking about “evaluating” his role without, you know, talking to him about it.
That’s a problem on several levels for the Panthers.
First, he’s still their best wide receiver, at a time when they need to add to the position rather than subtract.
Secondly, he’s still a popular touchstone for the fanbase, which has seen so much change in recent years.
But mostly, Smith can be prickly to deal with, and handling him the right way is a delicate balance.
The former regime had a long-standing relationship with Smith, and was able to navigate the waters of tweaking his contract from time to time without upsetting the temperamental star.
But Gettleman has no background with Smith, and perhaps more importantly, no contact.
A league source tells PFT that Smith hasn’t been approached by the team about taking a pay cut, and another source confirms that Smith and Gettleman didn’t talk when they were in the same room yesterday for Jordan Gross’ retirement press conference.
That’s a bad sign, because Smith’s a guy who can make up his mind in a hurry, and will hold a grudge.
By letting it get this far down the road without talking to him, the Panthers run the risk of alienating him and creating future issues if they want to try to keep him around for another year or two.
Of course, there’s also the real possibility that the Panthers want to move on without their longest-serving player, regardless of price.
That would explain all the hedging done by Gettleman and coach Ron Rivera in recent days, but it’s also poor form when it comes to how you do business with the best player in franchise history.
If they want to keep him, they better start working quickly to solve the bruised ego problem.
But the fact they haven’t done anything yet might be evidence they don’t care.