By Chris Todds (@ctdk1980)
With Cam Newton currently recuperating from his various ailments, and Kyle Allen’s lustre swiftly wearing off during their last 2 losses, which has left the Panthers very much on the outside of the playoff race, big decisions will have to be made throughout the franchise over the next few months. Ownership, coaching staff and contract extensions could all be affected by Cam Newton’s situation with the Panthers, never mind the dominoes that could fall throughout the league.
David Tepper, the owner of the team, made his own statement when he spoke with a group of reporters last week, giving support to Newton that was lukewarm at best, saying ‘no decision had yet been made on his future’. It was certainly intriguing that Tepper rejected the opportunity to throw his support behind his franchise QB, and presumably Newton himself noted the lack of enthusiasm.
Lets take a look at the various people who have a stake in the former MVP’s future prospects.
During his 2nd stint as GM of the Panthers, Hurney gave Newton his initial extension in 2015. With that contract expiring after the 2020 season, Newton has work to do to persuade the Panthers organisation to give him another massive contract.
The Panthers’ have a large group of players currently scheduled to hit free agency this spring, including Shaq Thompson, Mario Addison, James Bradberry and Gerald McCoy, with only approximately $40m of cap space, plus they may have to deal with star Christian McCaffrey’s contract. Cam Newton’s release or trade would free up $19m of space, and leave only $2m of dead money on the cap.
While Cam’s contract for next year is a relative bargain of $21m, if their medical department has concerns over his future recovery and prospects, could they possibly decide to trade one of the most important players in franchise history?
Riverboat Ron has an expiring contract in 2020 meaning if David Tepper and GM Marty Hurney see him as being their coach for the future, he’d be likely to receive an extension during the upcoming offseason.
However, Tepper’s recent comments have shown the owner is not willing to settle for mediocre, Rivera’s record as a HC is 76-61-1 (0.554), and his Panthers have yet to record back to back winning seasons in his 9 seasons as HC.
If the top brass decide they need to reload at QB without Cam and rebuild the roster for the future, they may well look for a new coach to lead that process.
As possibly the best all-around back in the league there’s little doubt that electric playmaker Christian McCaffrey will remain a part of the Panthers for the foreseeable future. He has 1 year left on his deal, with a fifth year option too, but is eligible to receive a new contract for the first time during the upcoming offseason, and will undoubtedly be a priority for the Panthers’ hierarchy.
However, as previously mentioned, Carolina have a lot of decisions to make over their upcoming 2020 free agency class with limited cap space to work.
After Zeke Elliott’s holdout during this years camp will RUN-CMC follow his lead and insist on a new deal before reporting for work? It’s worth noting his agent is Joel Segal, who represented both Chris Johnson and Khalil Mack during their holdouts.
The Panthers’ replacement for Cam Newton is also a restricted free agent this spring, if Carolina decide to retain Newton he may look to use his performances this year to persuade teams that he could be a bridge QB at the least.
While his performances have tailed off badly over the last few weeks if he can finish the season strongly, he could have an opportunity to win a starting job in a training camp next summer.
2020 QB free agents
If Carolina do decide to cut ties with Newton, he would join a crop of veteran and possible bridge quarterbacks (possibly including a GOAT). While some of these will almost certainly end up re-signing with their current teams, at the moment signal callers of the calibre of Brees, Brady, Winston, Bridgewater, Mariota, Tannehill are scheduled to become free agents this spring.
Also, there could be movement in the trade market with Rosen, Dalton and Trubisky all facing some questions over their futures.
With half of the teams in the league looking for improvements at the position, almost certainly Carolina would have a robust trade market for the former NFL MVP.
Tampa Bay, Chicago, Denver, Tennessee, Miami, Oakland, Cincinatti, LA Chargers would all make some sense as trade partners.
2020 QB draft prospects
There is also the prospect of Carolina becoming a serious player in the QB stakes early in next years NFL draft, while they did spend a 3rd round pick on Will Grier this past year, he has yet to see the field in regular season action.
With Justin Herbert, Joe Burrow, Jake Fromm, Jacob Eason and the recently injured Tua Tagovailoa all potential 1st round picks, the Panthers will be doing their due diligence on the prospects entering the league.
While the question marks will remain, and are unlikely to disappear until Cam Newton returns to the field, the best option for all concerned would probably see Cam Newton play out his current deal in Charlotte, proving his fitness and durability prior to signing a new deal to play out his career in the area he has come synonymous with.
However, there’s a long way to go before we can have any certainty about anything with Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers. When we do get certainty, the ripple effect willhave huge ramifications.