This can't be a surprise to any of us, given the Panthers' longtime history of low-profile free-agent signings and their current location deep in one corner of salary-cap jail (see the post right below this one for more on that), but they haven't done much to improve the team in the first couple of days of free agency. On the other hand, I don't think they've hurt themselves, either. Let's take a quick look at the "major" moves so far in the first year of new GM Dave Gettleman.
-- Releasing Chris Gamble. This had to be done for salary-cap reasons, but I don't think it's that bad a thing. Gamble hardly played last year due to injury -- I think he was coming to the end of his rope. I don't know that his "retirement" will stick -- I have my doubts about that -- but to me the money Carolina was going to have to spend on Gamble can be better spent elsewhere. Ideally, I think the Panthers are going to need to take a defensive back in the first two rounds of the NFL draft and start him.
-- Releasing James Anderson. A little surprised by this one, simply because Anderson has been a solid player for seven years. He set a team record for tackles in 2011 with 174 (since broken by Luke Kuechly). I liked Anderson both as a person and as a "depth" guy, but he's definitely not as explosive a player as Jon Beason, Kuechly or Thomas Davis. Then again, there's no way you can count on all three of those guys staying healthy throughout 2013. The main problem was that former general manager Marty Hurney overpaid for Anderson. A player like Jordan Senn, who is cheaper and has signed a new one-year deal, will now have to fill that role. Still, I don't consider this a monumental loss.
-- Losing Gary Barnidge to Cleveland. Greg Olsen is one of the best pass-catching tight ends in the league. Unless he gets hurt, this will go virtually unnoticed. Good luck to Barnidge, who reunites with Browns coach Rob Chudzinski. In the meantime, the Panthers re-signed blocking tight end Ben Hartsock cheaply, and that's a good thing.
-- Signing cornerback Drayton Florence. A 10-year veteran, Florence is two years older than Gamble (but has only 18 career interceptions compared to Gamble's 27). The Panthers can use a veteran presence at the position, so this will help a little, but Florence certainly isn't going to step in and be a No.1 shutdown corner. Again, this is all about bang for the buck.
-- (Possibly) resigning Derek Anderson. This, to me, is the best thing Carolina has done so far (assuming it happens -- our Joseph Person says Anderson is "leaning" toward Carolina). Cam Newton has been very durable so far and let's hope that continues, but having a big-time backup like Anderson is a huge plus.
I'm also heartened that the Panthers have (so far) found ways to keep highly-paid veterans Jordan Gross, DeAngelo Williams and Beason on the team. All have been speculated to be finished with Carolina due to various money issues, but they've all got some gas left in the tank. To me, Gettleman hasn't taken a major misstep as of yet. But Carolina still needs to find some more bargain players who can play -- treading water in the NFL, as we all know, isn't good enough.