CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Five things we learned from Carolina Panthers general manager Dave Gettleman during his press conference Wednesday at the NFL combine:
Charles Johnson's future is tenuous: Reading between the lines on what Gettleman said, it appears the defensive end's future with Carolina comes down to taking a cut from his $15 million 2016 salary cap figure or risk being cut. Gettleman said the team continues to evaluate the nine-year vet, noting that is difficult because of Johnson's injury situation this past season. He also said: "To me, it's not so much about what a guy makes, it's what he brings to the table. It's about the best 53." Johnson missed seven games with a hamstring injury and he had only one sack during the regular season. He's had only a combined 9.5 sacks the past two seasons after combining for 23.5 the previous two. That's not much for $15 million.
Josh Norman should be back: Gettleman's position hasn't changed since after the Super Bowl when he said the team would work toward a long-term deal with the Pro Bowl cornerback, and if not the franchise tag is an option. He reiterated that Wednesday, along with saying the Panthers don't develop players for other teams. Gettleman will meet with Norman's representation this week at the combine. That meeting had not taken place as of midday Wednesday. The franchise tag seems the most likely option to buy both sides time. That would cost the Panthers about $13.7 million against the cap in 2016. Gettleman isn't worried that using the tag will draw a negative response form Norman as it has other players. "Josh is a pro. He's a pro. No. Not at all."
Kelvin Benjamin will be ready for camp: The wide receiver missed all of last season after suffering an ACL injury during training camp. Gettleman said Benjamin and fellow wide receiver Stephen Hill, who also suffered a knee injury in camp, are on track to be ready for the 2016 camp in late July. He specifically mentioned that Benjamin has "worked his fanny off" to return and has kept his weight at 238 pounds. He pretty much ruled out Benjamin doing a lot during offseason workouts: "He'll be doing some things this spring and be ready to go for training camp." Gettleman also said he can't wait to see Benjamin, Carolina's first pick of the 2014 draft, and 2015 second-round pick Devin Funchess on the field together. Both are 6-foot-5 and should create big mismatches for opponents.
Mike Remmers isn't in jeopardy: Despite allowing three sacks in Super Bowl 50, Gettleman isn't as down on the right tackle as many fans were after the 24-10 loss to the Denver Broncos. Gettleman reminded the Panthers have won 22 of the 25 games since Remmers took over as the starter.
Jonathan Stewart will be back: Despite a high cap number ($9.5 million) for Stewart, Gettleman likes where the Panthers are at running back. He mentioned Stewart, Fozzy Whittaker, 2015 draft pick Cameron Artis-Payne and 2015 undrafted free agent Brandon Wegher. There wasn't a mention of fullback Mike Tolbert, who is a free agent. That one could be a numbers game.