Panthers offseason questions: The Quarterbacks


We’ve reached the offseason and I will be spending the next few weeks answering the biggest questions facing the Carolina Panthers

Ask anybody what the most important position in sports is and they’ll tell you it’s punter quarterback. Panthers QB Cam Newton improved for his third season, reaching the postseason for the first time in professional career. However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t questions at the position going into the offseason.

In 2013, Cam Newton had a cap hit of just over $6 million, which is incredibly cost effective for a quarterback of his caliber. Unfortunately, he’s now got just one more year on his cap-friendly rookie contract. General manager Dave Gettleman and head coach Ron Rivera are both fully behind Newton as the franchise’s leader for years to come.

Translation: Superman Cam is going to sign his first big time contract this offseason.

So how much will Cam get paid? In November, Spotrac projected Newton to receive a 6-year deal worth approximately $102 million, including a little over $35 million guaranteed. They came up with that number by taking a look at the recent contracts given to Matt Ryan, Matthew Stafford, Aaron Rodgers, and Joe Flacco. At the time that that was written, nobody expected the Panthers to overtake the Saints and win the NFC South. It’s a different story now and just ask Joe Flacco how important timing is when getting a new contract.

In light of that, I expect Cam to get a contract more similar to what Matt Ryan received, which was 6-years $113,750,000, including $42 million guaranteed. It’s important to note that even though the average salary on this contract is just under $19 million annually, expect GM Dave Gettleman to structure the deal so it’s more cap friendly early on in the deal.

Quick explanation of how cap hits work: Signing bonuses are prorated for the contract. So if it’s a $42 million bonus on a 6-year deal, then it adds $7 million to each year on top of the player’s base salary. If a player is cut, then whatever signing bonus money hasn’t been applied yet still goes against the cap as dead money. However, the base salary isn’t guaranteed so if a player is cut, it won’t count against the cap. This is a very rudimentary explanation of things and there are other nuances, but basically what this means is Gettleman can give Cam a low base salary in the early years and then backload the latter years of the contract. By the time that Newton gets to year 4 or 5 of the deal, the Panthers can restructure the contract.

The bad news is that even with cap gymnastics, Newton’s cap hit should double at the very least. However, even though a cap hit of say $14 million annually doesn’t allow the flexibility that the team was afforded this year, it’s a manageable hit that shouldn’t completely hamstring the front office’s ability to sign players.

Newton isn’t the only quarterback on the roster though. Well, he kind of is, which is the problem. The 2nd and 3rd string quarterbacks on the roster this season were Derek Anderson and Jimmy Clausen respectively. Both of their contracts are up.

Say what you want about Derek Anderson as a starting quarterback, he’s one of the league’s better backups and we learned from the Packers and Bears this year how valuable a backup QB can be. He’s a veteran and Newton is just 24 years old. Plus as large of a human being as Cam Newton is, he still runs a lot and subjects himself to a lot of hits so a quality backup is important.

For the right price, Gettleman would likely bring Anderson back. The question for the 30-year-old quarterback is if he’ll be able to find more money on the open market or maybe a chance to start. Anderson made $840,000 this season and especially with Newton getting a new deal, I can’t see the Panthers paying more than $1 million annually for a backup. If it’s not Anderson, some names to look for are Kellen Clemens, Rex Grossman, Charlie Whitehurst and Tarvaris Jackson.

For the third string QB, Jimmy Clausen is gone without question. Expect the Panthers to use a late draft pick on a developmental guy or perhaps take a chance on an undrafted player to fill that role.

This is just the first of many questions to answer this offseason for the Carolina Panthers. Keep checking back to Cover32 as I continue to go down the list.

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