The calendar may say 2017, but the effects of 2016 are still hanging over the Carolina Panthers.
Quarterback Cam Newton on Thursday underwent surgery on a partially torn rotator cuff, and next week he'll begin a four-month rehab process. If all goes well, Newton will be full-go at the start of training camp, but the 2015 NFL MVP needs to mend more than just his throwing arm.
"(His confidence) was shook," coach Ron Rivera said Wednesday at the NFL owners meeting. "Let's be honest. I'm not going to lie about that. The young man went through a tough time and we went through a tough time.
"Why? Because of the injuries we incurred on the offensive line. That was probably the biggest thing. It just kind of shows the importance and significance of protecting your quarterback."
Which is why the Panthers opened free agency by inking left tackle Matt Kalil to a five-year contract worth $24 million guaranteed at signing.
"He's the right guy for us."
After pairing Matt with his older brother Ryan on the offensive line, the Panthers reunited with defensive end Julius Peppers, who's not as dynamic as he was when he began his Hall of Fame career in Carolina.
Peppers' final year in Charlotte was Captain Munnerlyn's first. After a three-year stint in Minnesota, he's back as well. The Panthers have had a gaping hole at nickel since Munnerlyn left, but his new four-year deal addresses that problem.
In what was easily his most active free agency period, Gettleman also added safety Mike Adams and receivers Charles Johnson and Russell Shepard. With their most obvious needs filled, the Panthers head into the draft unencumbered by a to-do list.
"Sitting at (No. 8), we're going to take the best guy. We filled in some blanks in free agency and I was very pleased at how it went. And the other thing is this is a damn good draft," Gettleman said.
"When you're sitting at eight, you're going to be looking at a variety. You're going to be in Ben and Jerry's. Chocolate, pistachio, rocky road. You're going to have a variety of guys to look at -- it gets you excited.