While getting rid of several of their old stars, the Carolina Panthers have been consistent in talking about the stable of young ones which remain.
And team president Danny Morrison said Monday that the NFL's looming labor uncertainty wouldn't present any obstacles to general manager Marty Hurney's keeping that core intact for the coming year and beyond.
When he's spoken this offseason, Hurney has dodged questions about whether the lack of a collective bargaining agreement with the players union beyond 2010 would prevent him from signing his own to long-term deals. But Morrison said in an extensive interview that labor problems weren't an issue locally, as it pertains to the structure of the team.
"We're excited about our team, we're excited about our young players," Morrison said. "Marty's working with those guys, and he'll be working through all those issues. ... Really, the CBA is not involved in this situation at all.
"We have a budget we work with, but Marty's working with the player situation we always do. That's a separate situation."
A segment of the fan base has grown anxious this offseason, thinking that cutting six expensive veterans and watching defensive Julius Peppers walk away freely was a sign the Panthers were going cheap.
After all, they've returned to their preferred method of free agency, slow-playing the market, looking for bargains for what they call "good fits." It worked when they were putting together their playoff teams in 2003 and 2005, and big spending in following years didn't yield the results they wanted.
But as Hurney explained the departure of Peppers and the cuts, he kept talking about keeping their young core, without specifying when deals to keep them might come.
There are general notions that they'd like to retain players such as running back DeAngelo Williams, linebacker Thomas Davis and center Ryan Kalil, all of whose deals expire after the 2010 season. But prior to Monday, there was no mention as to whether those deals would be pursued as long as there's labor uncertainty.
Morrison's quick to distance himself from the implication he's heavily involved in the day-to-day football business. He was brought here last fall after the surprise firings of team president Mark Richardson and stadium president Jon Richardson, whose differences had become problematic.
In describing his role, Morrison said "my main responsibility is the business side, the stadium operations, and to work with the football operations."
But in overseeing the whole process for owner Jerry Richardson -- who's busy himself leading the league's efforts for a new CBA -- Morrison said he was pleased with what he's seen so far.
He used glowing terms when discussing the jobs done by Hurney and head coach John Fox, who have led the Panthers to a 71-57 record since 2002. Only eight teams have more regular season wins over that span, and the Panthers are one of just four teams since then without a double-digit loss season (along with New England, Indianapolis and Denver).
"That's a telling statistic," Morrison said. "I think sometimes consistency in the NFL over a period of time is a huge compliment. I can say that because I didn't have anything to do with it. That's a huge compliment for Marty Hurney and John Fox."
While Fox's contract status (through the end of the 2010 season) has been the topic of much discussion, Hurney's hasn't gotten as much attention. His deal runs through June 2010, though Hurney has always downplayed the need for a long-term deal, saying he'd work here as long as the elder Richardson wanted him. Morrison said he hadn't had any discussions about an extension for his general manager, adding that Richardson would make that call.