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Yasinskas on "the plan"

Discussion in 'Carolina Panthers' started by Wp28, Mar 16, 2004.

  1. Wp28

    Wp28 I had that dream again...

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    Plugging holes nothing new for Panthers

    Team's plan to develop core players made lost free agents expendable

    PAT YASINSKAS

    Staff Writer


    Picture this fictional scene in the offices of Bank of America Stadium a couple weeks ago.

    The brain trust of the Carolina Panthers is sitting around, discussing free agency. The names Jeno James, Reggie Howard and Deon Grant (all about to become free agents) come up.

    That's when John Fox, the coach and a concise philosopher, slightly alters his favorite phrase ("It is what it is").

    "They are what they are," Fox said.

    Well, those words never were spoken. But the reality is that's pretty much what Fox, general manager Marty Hurney and the rest of the coaching staff and front office concluded.

    James, Howard and Grant were decent players. But they weren't core players, and the Panthers were steadfast in sticking to their plan. Following a formula similar to the one used by the New England Patriots in recent years, the Panthers made offers to James, Howard and Grant before the opening of free agency on March 3.

    Those players tested the market and got much bigger offers. The Panthers didn't budge, and Howard and James signed with Miami while Grant went to Jacksonville. Throw in the retirement of guard Kevin Donnalley and the release of tackle Todd Steussie and cornerback Terry Cousin and it's easy to see why there's some panic among fans.

    The offensive line, a strength in the run to the Super Bowl, has been chopped up. Center Jeff Mitchell is the only starter from last season's line in the same position for next season. Steussie's departure means Jordan Gross, the only other remaining starter on the line, will switch from right tackle to left. The situation is similar in the defensive backfield where strong safety Mike Minter is the only remaining starter from opening day last season.

    Despite the losses, the Panthers haven't been major players in free agency. They signed tackle Adam Meadows and cornerback Artrell Hawkins to relatively modest deals and got linebacker Jessie Armstead for the veteran minimum.

    Sound like a formula for disaster for a team trying to return to the Super Bowl?

    Maybe not. Maybe the Panthers know exactly what they're doing. They're sticking to the plan Fox and Hurney implemented when they were hired more than two years ago and, despite the free-agent defections, they've already had a successful offseason.

    The gist of the plan is to build through the draft, identify developing core players and keep them for the long term. That's what the Panthers did when they re-signed receiver Steve Smith and kicker John Kasay to long-term contracts before March 3.

    Smith and Kasay were core players, both major difference makers last season. Grant, Howard and James were not difference makers and that's why the Panthers decided not to overspend.

    In their estimation, they could plug in replacements and not miss a beat. Maybe the replacements have been slow in coming and not as spectacular as many would like. There was a public outcry to sign Philadelphia cornerback Troy Vincent, who said he wanted to play for Carolina.

    The Panthers had an interest and kept an open dialogue with Vincent's agent. But it was obvious the team believed Vincent is what he is: A 32-year-old cornerback about to turn 33 and not worth the risk of a big contract. That's why he agreed to a six-year, $20 million deal with Buffalo on Monday and the Panthers never really got into the race.

    The Panthers have made their plan clear this offseason. Every move is made with an eye on the salary cap because another part of Fox and Hurney's plan is to not mortgage the future.

    The future is in good shape because the Panthers have taken care of their core players. The starting defensive linemen are under contract through at least 2007, running back Stephen Davis has four more years and Smith and Kasay are taken care of.

    But the cycle is continuous. Quarterback Jake Delhomme likely will get a contract extension in the next few months. Others also will need to be re-signed.

    The Panthers will have the room to do it because they haven't overextended themselves on average players. The ones who left can be replaced.

    Think back to training camp last year. The Panthers didn't have a clear-cut starter at left guard and James, a career backup, stepped up and earned the job. Think back to training camp two years ago. The Panthers brought a slew of no-name cornerbacks to camp, and Howard and Cousin stepped up and played pretty well for two years.

    But players like Smith, Kasay, Delhomme, Davis and the defensive line can't be replaced as easily or as inexpensively. Because the Panthers are following their plan, they won't have to replace anyone who is irreplaceable.
     
  2. McFly41

    McFly41 Work Hard...PLAY HARDER!

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    We'll see...
     
  3. HeadCase

    HeadCase dazed and confused

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    That sums it up nicely.
     
  4. magnus

    magnus Chump-proof

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    Sure is a good thing someone stepped up to give you new material.
     
  5. meatpile

    meatpile 7-9

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    :anon:
     
  6. Boo

    Boo Cornholio

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    "James, Howard and Grant were decent players. But they weren't core players"


    I agree with Howard but not with Grant and James.
     
  7. meatpile

    meatpile 7-9

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    Intersting not from that other guy on super bowl egos:

    "We've got to avoid that in Carolina," Armstead said. "I think in New York that after we made the Super Bowl, the players began to think they were bigger than the team. I was somebody who did that, absolutely. Then bad things started to happen and everybody got kind of freaked out."
     
  8. magnus

    magnus Chump-proof

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    Sehorn got hurt after that, right? Everybody started getting endorsement deals. Strahan wasn't out there on national TV before 2000.

    But, see, that still happened on Fox' watch. These guys aren't infalliable. The chances are, what the Giants went through is much more likely than anything else we have awaiting us. Takes nothing away from what Fox did or has done, but no one's guaranteed what we had this year. We may never get back again, we might be back in two years.

    Agree, Boo.
     
  9. vpkozel

    vpkozel Professional Calvinballer

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    We don't have the NY media here though. I'm not gonna worry too much about over exposure.
     
  10. Thelt

    Thelt Full Access Member

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    I think the only hole in the "plan" is that we have had a weak secondary since Fox has been here and we have not done a whole lot to make it better. If we can only build it through the draft then we need to start seeing more picks used on the secondary. If we had been able to slow down or stop Brady in the second half of the superbowl we would be the champs now.
     

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