The Carolina Panthers face months of uncertainty. Their owner Jerry Richardson has said he plans to sell the team. Their lease with the city is through 2019.
Meanwhile, they have an interim GM in Marty Hurney, and coach Ron Rivera is under contract through 2018. Those in charge in Carolina want that to change.
One of the Panthers' most important tasks going forward is to extend Rivera's contract, and sources say that's exactly what they want to do. The team's brass agrees that stability is needed on the football side. Put that together with the job the former coach of the year is doing and it's an easy decision.
Talks are in their infancy, but they are expected to heat up soon.
Accordingly, the hope from many in the building is that Hurney stays on as GM, though an NFL official said the Panthers will have to go through the process and comply with the Rooney Rule before elevating him for good. Hurney will stay on -- at least -- through June. He has worked well with Rivera.
Rivera's last deal was a three-year, $19.5-million contract through 2018. If he was free or became available, he'd be coveted, including potentially by the Bears.
It has been a tumultuous few weeks for the Panthers, who gave way to the NFL to investigate alleged workplace misconduct involving Richardson. It led him to announce he was selling the team when the football season ends.
Names have already come to the forefront. Music mogul Sean "P. Diddy" Combs expressed interest in buying the team, though he likely will need partners. Sherman Financial Group CEO Ben Navarro and hedge fund manager Paul Tudor Jones are among those who have planned to attempt to purchase an available team. In Charlotte, Felix Sabates (Hornets minority owner) is considering leading a local group of investors.
The plan was always for Richardson to sell when he passed away. With a new regime coming earlier than expected, the sale will at least allow Richardson (rather than his estate) to have some say. Though he'd like to ask the new owner to stay in Carolina, leagues are loathe to allow previous owners to demand conditions of new owners. All of these issues will be hammered out over the next few months. They hope to handle all their issues, football-wise, by locking up Rivera.