I need to stay busy. When I don’t, I get too far into my own head and start coming up with connections and schemes where I shouldn’t (think Mel Gibson in Conspiracy Theory). It was during one of these devil workshops that a thought occurred to me: “what if all of these odd Panthers offseason moves were a part of Cam Newton’s contract negotiations?” Follow me on this, the Panthers failed to re-sign any of the top WRs, and never attempted to sway a big name receiver despite the fact that Newton appeared in his 2nd Pro Bowl in three seasons with a cast of Steve Smith, Brandon LaFell, and Ted Ginn. Moreover, the team neglected to replace former pro bowler Jordan Gross at Left Tackle. You know, Left Tackle, that pesky little position that protects a right-handed Quarterback’s blind side.
So why not give the young superstar better weapons? Is it incompetence? I don’t believe so, the team has done a masterful job of building the defense; there is absolutely no way that the franchise could make such a startling turnaround if it were inept. But why in the world would anyone sacrifice offensive potency unnecessarily? Perhaps the reigning Super Bowl champion’s path to victory with less than a threatening WR corps inspired the Panthers management. The NFL is nothing if not a copycat league, maybe the Panthers think that a team with talent focused primarily on the defensive side of the ball can have success; except only one team in the last 11 years has had an offense ranked as low as the Panthers in points scored per game (18th). With points being scored at an all-time rate, no rational franchise would think that they could turn back the hands of the clock to a time when solely defense was enough to win a championship.
No, the only reason that I keep returning to is that the traditionally frugal franchise feels like depleting the offense would depress Cam’s leverage in contract negotiations. Keep in mind that, reportedly, the team hasn’t begun extension discussions with its star player. With the largest contracts in the history of the League getting handed out to QBs, how much money could the Panthers save in the coming years if Cam puts up career-low numbers in a contract year?
I want to be wrong; I just don’t think I am. Newton has proved that he can win in the NFL. The team should reward that, for his sake and the sake of its fans. If he’s able to score with this group assembled around him, he would have earned his Superman persona.
Sounds crazy to you? Ok, but so does the idea of letting your top 3 receivers walk after your franchise’s first playoff appearance in years and your quarterback’s best rating of his career. Disagree? Fine, then you explain it.