There is an old saying: You get what you pay for.
In the NFL, that’s not always true.
Being a general manager in the NFL is such a tough job. Imagine being in a suit and tie and acting like a professional when your livelihood is dependent on a role of the dice like some gambler in a Las Vegas casino.
You put together a great roster, send them out on the field and cross your fingers.
Maybe one of your studs gets injured. Maybe a high draft pick doesn’t work out. Maybe a former star starts to lose a step with age. And if you’re really unlucky, you get multiple examples of all three.
The Carolina Panthers are just plain bad right now. The 1-4 record doesn’t tell the whole story.
Sure, the team lost on a missed field goal to Denver and by a made field goal by Tampa Bay. If those kicks were reversed, Carolina might be 3-2.
But let’s not forget that the Panthers have had it really easy so far with opposing quarterbacks. Aside from Matt Ryan — who went off for 500 yards — the Panthers have faced Trevor Siemian, Blaine Gabbert, Sam Bradford and Jameis Winston.
Last year, Ryan was 20th in passer rating. Bradford was 26th, Gabbert was 27th and Winston 28th. Siemian was a backup.
So the Panthers have yet to face a passer who finished in the top half of the league in rating, yet they have been torched through the air. They are fourth-worst in yards per pass attempt at 8.4 yards. They have given up seven pass plays of 25 yards or more and five of 40 or more — which is as much as they gave up all of 2015.
In response, many NFL talking heads have been criticizing the Panthers for not paying an outrageous amount of money to keep Josh Norman.
The Panthers did the right thing. Yes, the team has problems now, but one player wouldn’t suddenly make the whole defense better. And since Norman doesn’t play on offense, it wouldn’t improve a squad that has made nine interceptions and five fumbles.
Plus, let’s remember two very important things. One, the Panthers offered Norman a deal worth about $14 million a year, making him the second-highest-paid player on the team behind Cam Newton and one of the highest-paid cornerbacks in the league. He turned it down because he wanted $17 million.
That is just absurd. You go from making less than a million a year to $14 million a year, and that isn’t good enough? You were an integral part of a team that won 17 of 18 games up to the Super Bowl, and you shun that to make even more money, without knowing if you’ll even fit in well on your new team.
Second, Norman had one big year out of four, so you can’t judge his consistency. And he will turn 29 during the course of the season. Considering he would be would be 32 at the end of a four-year deal and 33 at the end of a five-year deal, you have to consider how long he could play at a high level. Between inconsistency and age, you have to ask how many seasons he would be worth $14 million, much less $17.
To put this another way, consider that the Panthers only have $158 million to pay 53 players on their active roster and eight on the practice squad — plus money still owed on guaranteed contracts to players who were cut like DeAngelo Williams ($2.27 million), Jerricho Cotchery ($1.35 million) and Roman Harper ($900,000).
Taking out that dead money, basically the team has $150 million to go to 61 players, or an average of $2.46 million each.
Now that figures gets reduced even more when you count in all the other highly paid teammates like Cam Newton (19.5 million), Ryan Kalil (11.83 million), Jonathan Stewart ($9.5 million), Thomas Davis ($7.5 million), Charles Johnson ($6.58 million), Luke Kuechley ($6 million) and Michael Oher ($6 million).
Those seven players account for $66.91 million. That only leaves $83 million to go between 54 men, or $1.53 million each.
If you give $17 million to Norman, the rest of the team becomes lowly paid. What about Greg Olsen, one of the best TEs in the game? What about Kelvin Benjamin, the top WR?
Trai Turner is graded as one of the best right guards in the game, but he is only making $754,000, so he’ll need a big raise. What about Kawann Short, who very well could command a salary up close to what the Panthers offered Norman?
There’s only so much money to go around. And the team still needs a franchise left tackle.
And what if there are injuries? Don’t forget that the Panthers were missing Newton, Stewart and Oher on Monday night. Those three players account for $35 million of the salary cap and didn’t play a snap. The team could have signed Norman to a $17 million deal only to see him pull a hamstring or get turf toe and be slowed all season.
No, it sure isn’t easy to be GM Dave Gettleman, but I think he’s doing a fine job.
Jeff is the associate editor and can be reached at 415-4692.