Much as I'd prefer it not to happen, Jordan Gross is retired (and trim -
he's lost a lot of weight, quickly).
I'm happy for him personally, but the team will suffer a bit for it.
I'm thankful for him, for what he provided. I've said it before, that
at the time he wasn't who I wanted to draft. It was a conservative
choice for a too-conservative team, not enough impact (and, at the time
he was essentially a RT being drafted with a top ten pick). I remember
hearing about how "this is a guy you plug in for the next decade", and
while I figured he'd have a good, steady career, I discounted that
ideal. You never know what the future holds.
Now that it's over, hindsight affords you the ability to see the value
in having a really good offensive tackle for eleven years, and hoping
you get a twelfth. He leaves the team its all time leader in starts,
and there's a massive value in that. As he leaves football in his rear
view mirror, he becomes a part of the team's history, their lore.
I won't speculate on nutty nonsense like Gross being added to any
honorary spot inside or outside their stadium, but if they choose it,
it's not a bad choice. It's hard to look at the team and see many guys
who were both successful and career Panthers (Mike Rucker, Mike Minter,
and essentially little else), who were around this long.
I hear Travelle Wharton is considering retiring - another 30+ year old
lineman who gave us a ton of good years, I don't know if Carolina wanted
him back as much as they did Gross. Wharton, Gross, and Geogg
Hangartner were stalwarts for years here, a part of some good teams
(Hangartner got to skip the really lean years, and got paid to fail in
Buffalo, of course). I'd like Wharton back either way - but I can see
that a vet that costs $1 million or more might not be as ideal with the
cap situation (otherwise, it's 100% a bargain).
Essentially, the OL is Ryan Kalil and hand-me-downs - the "other"
consistently playing lineman over that period that's left is Byron Bell.
That Ron Rivera and Gross both suggested Bell could play left tackle
gives you pause, but I don't know that the team would do that without
significantly pushing Bell with a very talented rookie. Of course, the
idea of honoring Gross and simultaneously standing over the corpse of
his career talking about his replacement might be in bad taste, but time
moves on. And so does Carolina.
They just have a lot more work ahead of them to get this line together.