As of last week, former New Orleans Saints safety Roman Harper will now play for the Carolina Panthers. This is a move that is problematic for many reasons and questions the validity of general manager Dave Gettleman’s plan to bring the team back to its 2013 glory next season. The Panthers’ offseason, while bleak from the beginning, started off on a high note. Gettleman showed that, despite the high number of free agents on the Panthers roster, he could balance the limited cap space while also keeping key players (such as Greg Hardy) on the team.
However, since the Hardy re-signing, Gettleman has been digging himself into a hole and now has no discernible way out. They say when you find yourself in a hole it’s best to stop digging, but Gettleman just won’t stop. After letting Steve Smith go (and in the same act ruining all hopes for a solid passing game) he now has spent millions of valuable cap space on the aging Harper in a vain attempt to bring back some of the talent lost in the secondary.
There are numerous problems with the Harper signing, and they all reveal flaws in the Panthers’ current offseason strategy. Harper has never been a playmaker (only recording seven interceptions for his entire career) but has shown strong potential for deflections and tackles in the past. However, despite coming away with 115 tackles, two interceptions and 11 deflected passes in the 2012 season, he fell off the face of the planet in 2013. During last season, largely due to a knee injury, he only played nine games, recorded a mere 39 tackles, had one interception and a single pass deflected. By looking at these numbers it is clear that Gettleman hopes that Harper will return to his former glory in the 2014 season and that last year’s drop off was a fluke. However, Harper is not getting any younger, and appears that age is taking its toll. Not only that, but signing a safety is not at all what Carolina needs to be doing right now. The Panthers still have a solid defense, but their offense is in shambles. Gettleman appears to believe that a strong defense will make up for a weak offense, but just because it worked in 2013 doesn’t mean it will work in the future. Not only that, but the Panthers’ offense is worse than it was last year.
Signing Harper seems to be more of a desperate move than anything else, and right now Carolina cannot afford any desperate moves; they need solutions. Unfortunately for the organization, that appears to be one thing Gettleman does not have.