Should the Carolina Panthers trade Cam Newton?


Sep 7, 2014; Tampa, FL, USA; Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton (1) prior to the game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Before you completely dismiss me as insane, please at least hear me out. I realize the headline probably made many of you laugh at the mere suggestion that the Carolina Panthers should trade their franchise quarterback, Cam Newton. And to be clear–I’m NOT saying they should–I’m asking should they at least consider it…

I wish simply to ask the follow question, is Cam Newton the absolute solution at quarterback for the future of the Panthers franchise?

More from Cam Newton

Consider the following…

1. Cam Newton has a friendly contract for now.

If you are an NFL fan, you need to read Grantland’s Bill Barnwell. Barnwell annually puts out a NFL trade value list, ranking the most valuable contracts in the league. Cam Newton’s current contract was the 6th most valuable in the NFL, the link is here.

“Andy Dalton and Colin Kaepernick…have more total wins than Newton in their careers. Both Dalton and Kaepernick have had more consistent playoff success than Newton. Dalton…has been to the playoffs three straight years. Kaepernick has been to the NFC championship game 3 straight years, including a Super Bowl. ”

When you look at Cam Newton’s current deal on the fifth-year option, he is earning $14.67 million this year. The cap hit is $7 million. We all know that Carolina’s cap situation is terrible as it currently stands. There are a number of bad contracts that will come off the books after this season, to finally free up space. But, there are a number of other difficult decisions the Panthers will have to make once they finally have room.

#1 is Cam Newton’s deal. Look at other quarterbacks drafted in 2011 with their new deals: Andy Dalton at 7-years, $97 million and Colin Kaepernick at 7-years, $127 million. Newton will surely fetch a deal around the Kaepernick numbers–if not even higher. Since Newton was the #1 overall pick in 2011, his cap hit will be over $21 million according to Barnwell for its first season. That’s 1/6 of the Panther’s total salary cap.

Newton may be worth that type of deal. But consider this–Andy Dalton and Colin Kaepernick both were drafted much later than Newton in the 2nd round. Both have more total wins than Newton in their careers (Newton 25-24, Dalton 30-21, Kaepernick 22-8). Both Dalton and Kaepernick have had more consistent playoff success than Newton. Dalton, though yet to win a playoff game, has been to the playoffs three straight years. Kaepernick has been to the NFC championship game 3 straight years, including a Super Bowl. Newton has only been to the playoffs once, losing to Kaepernick.

The Panthers have other players -franchise players- coming up for new deals soon, Greg Hardy after this year and Luke Kuechly in two years. The Panthers have to play their hand carefully. Or else they will be in another cap mess that will limit their potential.

2. What could the Panthers get back if they trade Newton?

As articulated by Barnwell and myself, Cam Newton’s current contract is a very friendly. But the next one could be an albatross.

Newton is an interesting case. How many 25-year-old quarterbacks are there with 2 Pro Bowls on their resume? Not many, if any. He has all the tools to be not just an elite fantasy quarterback, but an elite NFL quarterback. But the question Panthers GM Dave Gettleman must ask is, will he finally put it all together?

One could argue Newton has been the same guy since coming in the league. Again Barnwell’s article highlights the hopes for Newton’s growth, but the numbers don’t suggest it. Newton’s completion percentage has hovered around 60%. His QBR has plateaued. Yes, he is still young with that magic word in sports, POTENTIAL. But is that what the Panthers should hope to cash in on?

Think of all the teams that would love to get a guy like Newton as the face of their franchise. Raiders? Jets? Browns? Texans? Titans? Cowboys? Rams? All of these teams either have an unproven franchise guy or an aging one. Some have future guys waiting like Derek Carr or Johnny Manziel. But if you were these teams, would you rather have them or Cam Newton?

“Yes, he is still young with that magic word in sports, POTENTIAL. But is that what the Panthers should hope to cash in on?

If traded, Newton could easily fetch back two 1st round picks in my estimation. Yes, he has all the upside in the world, but you have to at least consider his trade value. Having him gone would free up the cap space to secure the bread and butter of the Panthers currently, defense.

3. Are Newton’s current injuries a sign of things to come?

Cam Newton is a machine. He may be the most physically gifted quarterback in the league. But even he is breaking down somewhat after taking over 450 hits in his first three years.

Newton’s ankle is a real concern, even if his ribs will be fine. But are his current injuries a sign of the future, that “running” quarterbacks just don’t last? Even a guy as big and strong as Cam is starting to show wear and tear. It’s worth considering.

I love Cam Newton as much as anyone. I believe he can be the Carolina Panthers guy for the next decade. But with his current contract ending, the value of that contract, and his accumulating injuries one must ask–should the Panthers brass at least consider his value around the league when teams are desperate to find a face of the franchise?