Why Cam Newton will remain a Panther long term

I am a recent fan of Cat Scratch Reader and this is my first fan post.

I listen to a lot of talk radio due to the nature of my job. Invariably, every day, someone calls in saying that Cam Newton will leave the Panthers as soon as his contract is up. Those who declare this primarily cite two reasons. First, Jerry Richardson is too cheap to sign him, and second that Cam won’t sign an extension and will let his contract run out and become a free agent. Often, I have found, this is declared by non Panther fans. But there is a fear that runs through Panther Nation that this will occur. I will address both of these issues.

The belief that Jerry Richardson is cheap stems from the cost cutting that occurred during the 2010 season prior to the lockout. This was the year that there was no salary cap. I argued then, and will argue now, that Jerry Richardson maximized the lack of a salary cap. Yes, the Panthers cut many veteran players. But the cuts allowed the “dead money” to be applied to the uncapped year which resulted in a huge amount of money under the cap in the 2011 season. Regardless of the fact that the money was poorly spent, the strategy worked. In addition, the Panthers cut players that they paid millions in signing bonuses, thus paying them not to play, and then paid huge signing bonuses to players in the 2011 season. The result was actually spending more money in the long term then would have been spent had there been a cap in 2010. Finally, to say that an owner is cheap, and then to say that he overspends for talent is contradictory. Jerry Richardson is not a cheap owner.

The belief that Cam will leave after his contract is up is based on a lack of understanding of how rookie contracts work. Cam Newton signed a four year $22 million contract with a fifth year team option (4.5 million per year). The contract can be renegotiated and extended after year three. The fifth year option requires him to be paid the average of the top ten players at his position. As of right now, the average of the top ten quarterbacks for 2013 will be roughly $15 million. That will go up in 2015, so I will say it will be about $17 million once players get new contracts (Flacco, Rogers, etc) and other contracts are restructured to lower the cap numbers (Stafford, Bradford, etc).

So let’s say Cam hates Charlotte and wants to leave. Here is what he would be facing

2014 – $4.5 million

2015 - $17 million

2016 - $20.4 million (Franchise)

2017 - $24.48 million (2nd Franchise)

Total: 4 year $66.38 million per year with $4.5 million guaranteed ($16.6 million average)

After the end of his third year, Cam will command top five quarterback money. He won’t necessarily be a top five quarterback, but his youth and potential will require he be paid like a top five quarterback. This will put him at roughly $20 million per year. I would expect that the Panthers would want a six year contract. I think a good estimate would be a six year $120 million with about $45 million guaranteed.

So after year three he will have a choice of staying at Carolina four years $66.38 million with $4.5 million guaranteed and leaving a free agent in 2018 or a 6 year $120 million contract with $45 million guaranteed and committing to the Panthers until 2020. That will keep a player in Jacksonville long term, let alone Charlotte.

Franchise quarterbacks just don’t leave their teams in the NFL. This isn’t the NBA. The exception is if the team wants to replace them a la Payton Manning. I guess someone could bring up Jay Cutler. But he threw a temper tantrum when he found out that the Broncos were looking at trading for Matt Castle and thinking about replacing him. Cam Newton is no Jay Cutler.

So set aside your fears Panthers Nation. We have an owner who will spend the money and a quarterback who would be crazy not to take it.

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