How Scott Fitterer, the minor leaguer-turned-GM, should fit with Carolina Panthers

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The Carolina Panthers have reached a deal to make Seattle Seahawks vice president of football operations Scott Fitterer their general manager. Here’s what you need to know about the 47-year-old who was a two-sport star in college:

What is his background?

Let’s start with his playing days. He originally was headed to the University of California to play quarterback, but he then changed his commitment and went to UCLA. A big reason? Steve Mariucci, Cal’s quarterbacks coach, moved on to the Green Bay Packers. Fitterer transferred to LSU after his sophomore season, but after sitting out the 1994 season per transfer rules and after a successful 1995 spring as a relief pitcher for the Tigers, he signed with the Toronto Blue Jays. He went 6-6 in two seasons in Class A before shoulder issues ended his career. He turned back to football as a part-time scout for the New York Giants before being hired by the Seahawks in 2001, initially in the college scouting department.

What does he bring to the table?

Fitterer’s known as a great evaluator of talent. In his first two years as the director of college scouting, the Seahawks drafted Earl Thomas, Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor, major players in a secondary that was dubbed the "Legion of Boom." In his first four drafts, 13 players went on to become starters, including quarterback Russell Wilson, a third-round pick in 2012. That group led Seattle to five straight playoff appearances, including a Super Bowl title during the 2013 season. According to a former colleague, Fitterer is a great people person as well, so he should thrive in the collaborative relationship Panthers coach Matt Rhule desires from his GM.

How does he fit with Rhule?

While Rhule will have the final say on decisions with regard to the 53-man roster, he wants somebody who shares his vision on building through the draft. Fitterer has done that in Seattle, working closely with GM John Schneider since 2010. He also worked closely with coach Pete Carroll on many personnel decisions. So he understands how to work with the coach on all facets, understanding the coach has final say. “There’s a great dynamic,” Fitterer said in a 2016 interview. “John is very involved day to day in college and pro. Pete during the season really focuses on the team, but afterwards during January, February and March, he is very involved in the player personnel side. It’s a very nice give-and-take throughout the season.”

What challenges does he face?

Fitterer’s projected to have between $14 million and $15 million in salary-cap space in 2021, so there won’t be much room to improve the roster in free agency. He’ll have to help make some tough decisions, such as likely moving on from Pro Bowl defensive tackle Kawann Short, to free up more space. He’ll also have to deal with the restrictions of COVID-19, in terms of evaluating college talent, but he’ll have a leg up on much of the competition in that he and the Carolina staff have been chosen to coach the Senior Bowl on Jan. 30.

What advantages does he have?

Fitterer begins with the No. 8 pick in a draft, with which the Panthers might select a quarterback to groom to replace Teddy Bridgewater, who hasn’t gotten a long-term endorsement from Rhule or owner David Tepper. That this is a strong quarterback draft -- and considering Fitterer’s experience as a former quarterback -- should be a plus. Wilson turned out pretty well in Seattle.