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Even While He Plays Catch-Up, Dave Gettleman Will Remain Patient

Because the Carolina Panthers played further into February than they ever have, it's a bit hard to believe how quickly the next steps are coming.

In two weeks, they'll be at the NFL Combine. By March 1, they'll have to decide whether to use the franchise tag on Josh Norman. A week later, free agency begins.

That, of course, marks the time on the NFL calendar when a certain segment of the Panthers' fan base, and even some in the national media, wonder where general manager Dave Gettleman is — like he's out on the golf course instead of paying attention.

Well, here's some not-so-breaking news: It's unlikely the Panthers will be active in the first (aka: pricey) wave of free agency.

"With my 30-year meteoric rise, I've learned to be patient," Gettleman joked Tuesday.

"If you have a philosophy that you believe in, and I know people are impatient, but ... you have to be patient."

Gettleman's fourth spring in Charlotte won't be much different from the first three. He'll use the later (aka: cheaper) waves of free agency to fill holes ahead of the draft, and through it all, he'll never believe he's just one player away. So while much of the focus will be on what the Panthers do with Norman, he's just a piece of a much larger puzzle.

Odds are Norman won't get the long-term deal he's hoping for, but he will get tagged. Even though that would net Norman between $13 and $14 million, it may not perfectly appease him. But that may be in the team's best interest.

"We're going to do everything we can to keep our core together, I mean, you'd have to be an idiot not to," Gettleman said before adding, "Tough decisions have to be made.

"We're going to do the best we can to keep this team together. We've got a lot of really good, young players and we don't want to develop players for other teams."

Tagging Norman would eat up the bulk of Carolina's cap space, which according to Over the Cap and Spotrac, should be around $20 million when the new league year begins. But the Panthers can and will find more room by releasing or restructuring some guys, giving them enough cash to go shopping for bargains during free agency.

"We're not in bad shape (with the cap)," Gettleman said.

"We've been working the whole time. Are we a little behind? Yeah, of course we are. But we've hit the ground running."

That's one negative of a run to the Super Bowl. While most teams have been looking toward 2016 for five weeks already, the Panthers are just now turning the page. But that's a good problem to have, and it's a game of catch-up Gettleman gained experience playing during Super Bowl seasons with the Broncos and Giants.

Those years also helped form his roster-building philosophy: It's a 12-month deal that takes patience and plenty of methodical planning. It won't be flashy, but its effectiveness is what matters most.

"We've gone through the process, and three years later, here we are at the mountain top, but not at the peak," Gettleman said.

"The style of the game may change, but there are three truths in football — you have to run it, you have to stop the run, and you have to rush the passer. The way you do that is with big people and our philosophy won't change."

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