Today the Detroit Lions signed Calvin "Megatron" Johnson to a 7 year, 132 million dollar contract, with 60 million dollars in guaranteed money. While this move was primarily made to free up cap space for the Lions (about 9 million dollars per Walterfootball.com), it also makes Johnson the highest paid Wide Receiver in the NFL. This signing establishes a precarious precedent in the NFL, likely sending ripples all across the league.
Lions QB, Matt Stafford is scheduled to become a Free Agent after the 2015 Season, yet, it is likely that the Lions will try to resign Stafford before his contract year, or when his cap hit becomes detrimental to the team. Traditionally, Quarterbacks make more money than Wide Receivers, and when the time comes, Stafford will likely command a salary similar to his compatriot, Megatron. This deal will likely force the Lions to give Stafford a deal in the neighborhood of 100 million dollars, and as such, the market price for a top ten quarterback is going to inflate in the next 3-4 years. This is where Calvin Johnson's new contract will hurt the league, and specifically, the Carolina Panthers.
Last offseason Rookie Sensation Cam Newton signed a 4 year, 22 million dollar contract; all of the salary being guaranteed. For the duration of his contract, Cam's cap hit is going to be manageable, especially so for the services Cam Newton provides the Panthers. The relative affordability of Cam's contract and cap hit allows the front office to fill holes in the roster with quality Free Agents, and more importantly, the resigning of our own draft picks. However, when Cam's contract enters its culmination, Newton will likely request a mega contract in concordance with the contracts of other Elite QB's, possibly a contract worth over 150 million dollars, paid over the course of a decade.
If Cam continues to develop and progress as an NFL QB, his game, and the offensive success will escalate exponentially, and the Panthers' dependence on Cam will soar, making contract negotiations significantly one sided, as the Panthers will be forced to pay Cam as one of the top players in the NFL. When this happens, Cam's cap hit will increase from a meager 2-5 million dollars, to a monumental 15-20 million dollars. Furthermore, the deal will curtail any major free agency signings and possibly force the Panthers to terminate the contracts of numerous veterans, in a similar fashion to the cutting of Travelle Wharton, or the Steeler's purging of the old guard. By the time the 2015 Season concludes, the Panthers may have to cut ties with current mainstays including, James Anderson, DeAngelo Williams, Greg Olsen, Charles Johnson, and Chris Gamble. Newton's new deal could effectively purge the veteran corps of the Panthers's future, seriously hurting the chances of a Panthers Dynasty in the 2010's.
Calvin Johnson is supremely talented, and Megatron has certainly earned his paycheck, however, his new deal is likely going to set a chain of inflation that will hurt the monetary correlation between a player's ability, and their salary. Cam Newton is the most important player in the Carolina Panthers Organization, and when the time comes, Cam will need to be compensated amongst the likes of the NFL's Elite QB's. And while Cam's deal will place a premium on the services of veterans, it will likely put an emphasis on the quality drafting in the organization, so as to avoid a scenario similar to that of the Indianapolis Colts. Dolla' Dolla' Bill Y'all.