The new Carolina Panthers power duo of general manager Scott Fitterer and head coach Frank Reich just gave us a ton to chew on. So, to make our meal a bit easier to consume, we chopped their two pressers down to the meat and potatoes.
Here are the biggest 15 takeaways from Fitterer and Reich on Monday.
Panthers have conviction on multiple QB prospects
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Fitterer said the team was comfortable in trading for No. 1 overall pick because of their strong feelings on more than one of the draft’s quarterbacks.
“At the combine, I said, ‘If you’re gonna go up, you better have conviction.’ And we have conviction on players at that top, that we feel good about.”
He then added that they’re still going through the process on said passers.
“Yeah, we’re still going through the process right now. Obviously, we have our ideas. You’re not gonna make a move like that without having that pretty much cemented. But now, we’re going through the process of talking to the players and really getting to know them.”
Teams have not called about a trade for the No. 1 pick
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“No, not yet.”
Size is not the determining factor in QB evaluations
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When asked if the 5-foot-10 Bryce Young may be at a disadvantage due to his height, Fitterer said Reich has never expressed a grave concern about size.
“He’s never put that label out to me as like, ‘Hey, I need this, this and this. He needs to be this tall, his hands need to be this big.’ He’s never put that out to us. It’s like who plays the position the best, who’s gonna give us the best opportunity to win.”
Reich confirmed the sentiment.
“We’re, first and foremost, just looking for playmakers. You look at everything. Every trait that a guy has, and you weigh it. Right? You weigh it. The thing is—if there’s 10 categories that you look at in a quarterback, or any player for that matter, the real question is not how to evaluate each of those categories. A big part of the question is how much are you gonna weigh each of those categories.
“So, everything’s a factor. But, ultimately, it really comes down to being a playmaker. Being a guy who can make plays all over the field and that happens a lot of different ways.”
Andy Dalton was signed for his experience, ability
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The Panthers signed Dalton to a two-year, $10 million deal. Fitterer was asked why.
“His leadership. Just the expertise. The person that he is. He was a guy that had to play as a rookie. So he can help, if it’s a rookie quarterback that’s gonna be playing, he can share his experiences with him. Josh [McCown] can share his experiences. Everything we’ve done is to basically support that position. We’ve added receivers, tight ends, running backs—all these positions to put whoever that is at quarterback, to give them the best opportunity for success.”
Reich put a little spice on his answer—stating Dalton was signed to help win games, not just give advice about them.
“But make no mistake about it, first of all, Andy Dalton was brought here to win football games. He’s brought here to win football games. Because if you’re gonna win a championship, it shows, you need a backup quarterback who’s gonna impact that.”
Adam Thielen's age is not considered a drawback
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Fitterer also touched on Thielen—who agreed to a three-year, $25 million deal on Sunday night. He believes that even at 32 years old, and 33 when the season begins, the two-time Pro Bowler has plenty to offer.
“He actually wants to be here three years. That was part of the whole deal. He wants to be here through this process of building and winning. So that was important to him.
“Having him in the building, like, when you watch his tape—the type of player he is, he’s so much about technique and separation and route running. That [age] doesn’t bother me as much. If he loses a step, it’s not a biggest factor for a player with his style of play. If he was just a straight-line burner—yeah, 32, that makes a difference. A guy that’s so savvy like that, that knows how to separate—wasn’t as big a factor.
“And then we also want his influence in the locker room. He’s such a leader. We had in him the building last week. I was really impressed with the guy. He has so much command and respect. He’s what our team needs right now.”
DJ Chark is still in play
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The Panthers may not be done with free-agent wideouts. Fitterer said they’re still in contact with DJ Chark, who visited the team this past Friday.
“We gotta let it play out. There’s still talks. But we’re gonna let that one play out.”
Lamar Jackson was not under serious consideration
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The point is moot now, especially considering Carolina’s acquisition of the No. 1 overall pick. But Fitterer said the Panthers were always more focused on drafting a quarterback than on signing Jackson.
“Like anything, you always have a conversation. He’s a great option, a really expensive option. But we were focused on more the draft picks at this point.”
Talks about an extension for Brian Burns should intensify after the draft
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Burns, who is currently slated to play on his fifth-year option in 2023, is an obvious candidate for a contract extension. Fitterer said those talks should pick up following the draft.
“I just talked to Brian’s agent, not so much about him. But that’s something we’ll probably look at after the draft.”
Shy Tuttle and DeShawn Williams were pinpointed as exact fits for the new 3-4 defense
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With the transition to a 3-4 base under new defensive coordinator Ejiro Evero, the Panthers signed a pair of big-bodied linemen in Shy Tuttle and DeShawn Williams. Fitterer said they were players that Evero and his staff wanted specifically.
“Obviously, we’re going from a 4-3 to a 3-4. And it’s not a true 3-4, but those are the type of bodies that EJ [Evero] and our defensive staff said, ‘Hey, these are guys that we know, these are guys that we want. They fit the mentality that we want, the physicality that we want.'”
There are still a few needs to be addressed
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Fitterer was asked what position he’ll look to fill next.
“Yeah, you can always go the vertical guy. You can never have enough pass rushers. Maybe a big d-lineman, just ’cause guys get hurt during the season—so you need those bodies. And then, we talked about inside linebacker. No team’s ever perfect, even the teams that win the Super Bowl like Kansas City this year. They’re never perfect. Everybody has needs. We’re always gonna keep an eye out and keep searching for whoever it may be.”
Jeremy Chinn will play big nickel, dime linebacker with addition of Vonn Bell
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With the signing of safety Vonn Bell, Fitterer said the Panthers will be able to move Chinn around the defense in 2023.
“They’re gonna move him around a little bit in this defense—he’ll be like a big nickel, maybe a dime linebacker. I don’t know how much he’s sat down with the coaches yet. It just gives us flexibility on the backend. This is a league now where you’re nickel 70, 80 percent of time. So guys like Jeremy are gonna be on the field, and he’s a very valuable player for us.”
David Tepper played a key role in landing the No. 1 pick
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Reich really credited the team’s acquisition of the first overall pick to Fitterer and Tepper.
“I wouldn’t say more pressure. I think that we’re just trying to get the right quarterback for us. We knew at nine it was a hard spot. It was a hard spot to be at. So when you started lookin’ at options to get up—Scott, I can’t tell you how great of a job he did in navigating that whole thing through the combine and beyond. He was masterful and it turned out to be what we think is really a win-win. Obviously, we had to give up a lot to get to nine to one.
“We had other options to get up and looked at all those. And this is where, really, Mr. Tepper, I thought, had some really great insight in the process as we evaluated those options. His analysis of those options, I thought, was spot on—kinda helped push us to the right decision to get up to No. 1 and to make that decision and to be in control.”
Reich had a 'very high' grade on Russell Wilson in 2012
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When circling back to the topic of Young’s height, Reich said he actually thought quite highly of the 5-foot-11 Wilson during the 2012 draft process—giving credence to the “size doesn’t always matter” conversation.
“It’s like everybody says—everything matters. All those conversations matter, especially when it’s Scott Fitterer. It’s the GM. And he’s talking about a guy like Russell Wilson . . . who, by the way, I had a very high grade on.
“You don’t have to read anything into that. But I don’t mind telling you I had a high grade on Russell Wilson. But don’t read anything into it, I’m just sayin’ that. ‘Cause all these people puttin’ this label on me that I only work with big quarterbacks. Don’t read anything into that.”
Bradley Bozeman was a top priority in free agency
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Bozeman re-signed on a three-year, $18 million deal. Reich said the return of the veteran center was an important move for a team looking to not only solidify their starting offensive line, but give their eventual rookie quarterback some comfort.
“It’s really important. Scott and I talked about that right from the beginning. When Boze’s name got brought up—and, hey—we’re No. 1. This is a guy we need. He’s a leader. He’s an alpha. That’s what you need from that center position.”
Miles Sanders is viewed as a complete back
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The Panthers made a bit of a splash with Sanders—who agreed to a four-year, $25 million pact. Reich said he views the former Philadelphia Eagle as the complete package out of the backfield.
“Miles—just a versatile three-down back. Can run inside, outside, he’s good at all schemes, has good vision, balance, body control, acceleration in the hole. He’s really, in a lot of ways, a complete back. We really look for that in that No. 1 spot—wanting to be on the field all three downs. Very good hands, very good route runner, good instincts. So that was really a big deal for us to get Miles.”