Today, we’ll do our best to decode Scott Fitterer’s combine press conference, separating fact from fiction, while making a few offseason predictions. It will be fun.
Takeaway #1: Darnold Is Out Of Here
Bye Felicia. According to Fitterer, Sam needs to “take the next step”, which is coach/GM speak for “this guy is holding us back.” Obviously, this is correct, but the spectre of Darnold’s $18 million cap figure has left many people wondering – present company included – whether or not the team might run it back with Sam. The lack of even a lukewarm endorsement seems to preclude this option.
Eating 18 million hurts, but the team doesn’t have much of a choice. And the lack of draft capital likely takes a salary dump trade off the table.
Takeaway #2: Cam is 50/50
Personally, I think the team still wants him around. For one, he’ll be very cheap after a season where his arm looked shot, but his running ability and locker room presence still makes his a terrific fit as a backup quarterback for a young program.
So then it’s just a matter of whether or not Cam wants to deal with this bullshit. Does he really want to waste of year of his life holding a clipboard, getting one or two snaps a game as a redzone specialist? His love for the franchise makes it possible, but we’ll soon find out.
Takeaway #3: Reddick is probably gone, while Gilmore isn’t even on the radar.
Nothing too surprising here. Both of these players were one year rentals for a team that had erroneous playoff hopes. They will both be expensive, and the Panthers still need to take care of Brian Burns. Donte Jackson is a little more interesting. He’s become a very good cornerback when he’s on the field, but availability has become a red flag over the last two seasons. I’d imagine this will scare teams away from giving him a multi-year deal, which means a one-year “prove it” contract with the team that drafted him is very much on the table.
Takeaway #4: The Panthers will draft the best OT available at #6.
Fitterer isn’t even faking interest in a quarterback, which is strategically dubious. You’d love to see the team on the Malik Willis hype train, but as of now, that’s not the case. A year after just missing out on Penei Sewell, and passing on multiple left tackle prospects, it feels like their mind is made up. They’ll stay put at 6 and take whichever left tackle falls into their lap. If, for some reason, the Giants fall in love with a tackle despite Andrew Thomas’ year two leap, then you could see a trade up, but I don’t expect this to happen.
Takeaway #6: The team sees Ian Thomas as a potential free agency steal.
I’m not a huge fan of bringing Thomas back, especially at what I consider to be an overpay, but I kind of get it. Ian still has the freakish athleticism which made him an intriguing 4th round selection in 2018, plus he’s filled out into a legitimate “Y” TE. I like where Fitterer’s head is when talked about matching personnel, about how defenses can’t just play nickle against our two TE sets.
So let’s stop fucking around and let Thomas eat. Get him matched up on linebackers. This offense needs YAC, and Ian has always shown this potential.
Takeaway #7: We need McCaffrey to stay healthy.
This one is from the Captain Obvious files. Too expensive to trade, the Panthers have no choice but to hope McCaffrey is past his injury woes. Fitterer called CMC’s injuries “flukey”, but are they? The fact that they were both open-field, non-contact injuries seems to indicate a trend, while also pouring water on the theory that a converting him to slot receiver could prolong his career.
More than likely, McCaffrey is suffering the normal wear and tear which accompanies workhorse RB usage, and it doesn’t really matter how or where you use him on the field. This suddenly makes running back a quiet position of need. Chuba Hubbard can run fast, but until he can stop tackling himself or dropping passes, he’s not the ideal next man up.