Scott Fitterer has been the GM of the Carolina Panthers for over a year now. Since accepting the job, he's made some great moves and some really bad ones as well. As a rookie GM, that's expected to happen.
So, now, let's look back on some of the most notable moves he's made.
2021 draft class - This could be thrown under the "unknown" category but the early returns are promising. Jaycee Horn looked the part in the 2.5 games that he played a year ago, Brady Christensen is apparently evolving into one of the best players on the entire team, Tommy Tremble has the potential to be a dynamic weapon at tight end, Chuba Hubbard looks like a capable NFL back, and Keith Taylor Jr. is turning out to be a day three steal at corner.
Signing Haason Reddick - Looking back on it, the Panthers may have had the best free agency signing of 2021 by agreeing to a one-year, $8 million deal with Haason Reddick. He came away with 68 tackles, 18 QB hits, 12 tackles for loss, and 11 sacks on the year. Unfortunately, the Panthers were unable to hold on to him as he signed a three-year, $45 million deal to return home to Philadelphia.
Trading for Stephon Gilmore - In the end, trading for Gilmore didn't really do anything to help the Panthers' playoff chances but it did give a very young corner group the opportunity to spend a season with a seasoned vet. That alone is invaluable. At the time the move was made, the Panthers were 3-0 and only had to give up a 6th round pick to complete the trade. Jaycee Horn, CJ Henderson, Keith Taylor, and even Donte Jackson have benefitted greatly from having Gilmore around.
Sam Darnold trade - Giving up a 2nd, 4th, and a 6th really isn't that much if Darnold would have actually hit. It would have been considered a bargain. Instead, it looks like the Panthers gave up way too much as it's clear that the team has zero faith in Darnold moving forward.
Picking up Sam Darnold's fifth-year option - Why? Why commit to a guy that has not played a single down of football for you and has had a rough start to his career? This isn't Matthew Stafford or Russell Wilson where you know you won't get burned by picking up a team option. Now, the Panthers are handcuffed to Darnold with the $18 million that they owe him for the 2022 season.
Robbie Anderson's contract - Look, I understand why they wanted to extend Anderson due to the huge numbers he posted in 2020. What I don't understand is the timing of the extension. Why give in? The Panthers had one more year of control and didn't need to jump the gun. For me, I need to see two years of consistent production before I go and throw a bunch of money around. The other reason I don't understand the timing is due to the fact that they've already moved on from Teddy Bridgewater; the quarterback that he had a connection with during that one season.
Signing Cam Erving & Pat Elflein - Signing these two late in the free agency period would have been understandable. The fact that both signed their deals on the first day of free agency made absolutely zero sense. They weren't going to make winning moves last offseason and just wanted to give guys like Erving and Elflein a second chance but once again, it's about the timing.
Drafting Ikem Ekwonu 6th overall - Passing on Ekownu for a quarterback at No. 6 would have been an epic failure. Carolina was fortunate that he was even still on the board. The fact that he fell and they didn't mess up the pick is a good thing. Now, if he develops into the player everyone believes he can be, they will finally have the left tackle position solved for years to come.
Drafting Matt Corral in the 3rd round - Many, including myself, don't believe there will be a franchise quarterback that comes out of this draft class but if Corral can turn into that guy, the Panthers can finally take steps forward.
Overall grade: C+
Overall, not a bad first year for Fitterer. He has shown that he can wheel and deal in the draft and has done a great job of not getting overly aggressive during the draft. To me, he has to do a much better job of protecting his assets and also stop kicking money down the road by reconstructing contracts. I get that you may have to do it here and there but the more you do it, the more you're going to hurt yourself later on.
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