Plenty of questions currently swirl over the Carolina Panthers. One of the biggest relates to their franchise quarterback.
They haven’t ruled out keeping Newton for the final year of his current contract, according to Ian Rapoport of the NFL. That’s an obvious position to take at this point; the best leverage when it comes to trade talks is the ability to say to a potential partner, “We’ll just keep him.” The moment it becomes a foregone conclusion that the player will be gone, the price bottoms out.
In March, when everyone knew that the Steelers and Antonio Brown were careening toward a divorce, the Steelers still were trying to sell the idea that the storm could blow over and Brown could stay.
Newton’s contract, at $19.1 million ($18.6 million salary and $500,000 workout bonus) for 2020, falls far below the current market for high-end quarterbacks. When healthy, Newton continues to be a high-end quarterback. The question is whether he will get healthy and, more importantly, whether he’ll stay healthy.
Those questions have swirled over Newton for the past few years, with concerns ping-ponging back and forth between his shoulder and his ankle and his shoulder and his foot and his shoulder. For the Panthers, it potentially has become exhausting. For a team looking to upgrade at quarterback, it will be far less of an issue (at least at the outset).
What the Panthers want to do with Newton will depend on the identity of the new coach, the identity of the V.P. of football operations that the team intends to hire, the lingering influence of G.M. Marty Hurney in the revised regime, and ultimately what owner David Tepper wants. Over the past 20 years, a certain amount of what used to be “meddling” by owners is now accepted and expected, and Tepper has every right to chime in on whether the team should continue or conclude its relationship with the first overall pick in the 2011 draft.
Of course, it’s also important to consider what Newton wants. If he wants a fresh start, he’s more likely to get one. And while the Panthers may try to get him to be discreet on that point so that they can maximize trade value, nothing stops Newton from posting a cigar-bar video in which he takes a sip of Cab and says he’d like to hop a plane out of Charlotte.
Ultimately, it’s far too early to know how it will play out. The last thing that the Panthers would or should or could do at this point is make a final decision and publicize it. For now, they need potential suitors to think they may decide after the season ends and all new hires are made to keep Newton.