REGIONAL: Panthers make it official: Scott Fitterer is their new GM

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — The Panthers have hired Seattle Seahawks vice president of football operations Scott Fitterer to become their new general manager.

The team said Fitterer agreed to a five-year contract late Thursday night after being offered earlier in the day.

“We thought Scott was the best fit for the organization,” Panthers owner David Tepper said.

Fitterer has been with the Seahawks since 2001, where he effectively operated as a co-assistant GM under John Schneider. He has worked with three head coaches during that span, with his focus primarily on evaluating incoming college talent.

Fitterer is expected to have final say in personnel decisions in Carolina, although coach Matt Rhule will still have an input.

Fitterer’s hire comes following an exhaustive search by Tepper, who interviewed 15 candidates for the position. The list was later trimmed to four with Fitterer, Titans director of player personnel Monti Ossenfort, 49ers vice president of player personnel Adam Peters, and Chiefs assistant director of player personnel Ryan Poles being the finalists who were invited for a second in-person interview.

“We went through a thorough process and it was a great final four,” Tepper said.

Fitterer replaces longtime general manager Marty Hurney, who was fired in December.

During his tenure in Seattle, Fitterer helped draft players such as quarterback Russell Wilson, defensive back Richard Sherman, linebacker Bobby Wagner, defensive end Frank Clark, wide receiver Tyler Lockett, defensive back Shaquill Griffin, safety Tre Flowers and wide receiver DK Metcalf.

Tepper said at the time he was looking for a general manager who was more data driven and is a believer in sports analytics. Tepper also said he was looking for “alignment and collaboration” between the team’s next general manager and Rhule, who was 5-11 in his first season with the Panthers after signing a seven-year, $62 million contract.

“Collaboration doesn’t mean you don’t have arguments about who you are picking,” Tepper said in December. “(We want) a decision maker, somebody who is a good manager.”

A two-sports athlete in college, Fitterer pitched three seasons in the Blue Jays organization. He began his career with the Giants before joining the Seahawks and rising through the ranks to direct their college personnel department.