This season taught us many things, but one overwhelming truth was that when Cam Newton drops back he becomes an alchemist; taking materials and turning them into gold. It was a season where Newton was the catalyst for Steve Smith's rejuvenation, and the reason Brandon LaFell finally started to 'get it'. However, one can never go wrong in surrounding a player like Newton with more talent, which has led some fans to envision dreams of end-zone acrobatics by Justin Blackmon leading to a team-wide embrace. Unfortunately it seems this dream may be unattainable, as it's almost certain Blackmon will be out of the Panthers clutches. While Alshon Jeffrey wouldn't be a bad option (and one that could be had), perhaps the right decision to to return to familiar ground- sign Vincent Jackson.
Much of this view depends on how highly you regard David Gettis and Brandon LaFell- that's what makes this conversation difficult. Either you believe Gettis is a future #2, and LaFell is a 10-year possession receiver, or you're afraid the former can't recapture his rookie season post injury, and question whether 2011 was an outlier for LaFell. While both sides can make compelling arguments does it really behoove the Carolina Panthers to gamble on this? A legitimate 1,000 yard receiver like Jackson could be the final piece of the offensive puzzle, and wouldn't require a draft pick.
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It's appropriate to talk about Jackson now for one key reason: The Chargers have announced they're not going to use the franchise tag on him. This is telling as a sign of his recent attitude in San Diego. While Jackson has been the consummate professional on the field, off it has been a whole different story. For much of the last three years he's whined, complained and acted petulantly at the state of his contract (or lack thereof). Like so many WRs before him he's vastly out performed his 2nd round contract, but unlike many other receivers, the Chargers haven't relented and paid him.
Now it's set for Jackson to leave, and unlike so much off-season rosterbation there are tangible links that would lead us to believe the Panthers would at least entertain an offer, so long as it wouldn't break the bank. 2011 saw both Legedu Naanee and Seyi Ajirotutu find their way to Carolina from San Diego, and should Rob Chudzinski choose to stay, one wonders if he lobby to get Jackson across from Smitty. In building the offense there's been one reality- what Chud wants, Chud gets. It was this thinking that caused the Panthers to sign Shockey, trade for Olsen, sign Naanee and add Ajirotutu... four players, all with ties to our OC; it's not outside the realm of possibility to conceive this.
Fans tend to hope for the best, and expect the best a lot of the time. Nothing would make me happier than to believe Brandon Hogan is a future #1 corner, LaFell a future #2 WR and Gettis a possibile replacement for Smitty, but when it's all said and done odds are these wont occur. If Jerry Richardson allowed the Panthers to loosen the strings, or if the market for Jackson is waning there's good chance Carolina could swoop in and lock him up. Of course everything is predicated on Rob Chudzinski staying, but it's definitely something for fans to watch as we progress into free agency.