HomeNFLCarolina PanthersCarolina Panthers at Risk of Losing Cam Newton Kevin Rosenthal March 19, 2014 Carolina Panthers, Grid, Home, NFL 5 Comments The Carolina Panthers seem to be headed in the wrong direction. The defending NFC South champs seemed poised to become a perennial contender. The Panthers finished last season 12-4 but finished with a disappointing home playoff loss to the San Francisco 49ers. Cam Newton made lengthy strides as a quarterback and a leader; he seemed to have matured a great deal and to be getting a handle on the little things that make one a great franchise quarterback. Newton instantly became the face and future of the franchise when he was drafted #1 overall by the Panthers in 2011. Despite Newton working hard and doing everything he could to help this team win games, it seems as if the front office is determined to run him out of town. While it is still early in the off-season, General Manager Dave Gettleman has given little reason for the fan base to have any faith and next season’s team will be virtually unrecognizable. Steve Smith, Brandon LaFell, Ted Ginn, and Domenik Hixon are all no longer on the roster. In other words, aside from tight end Greg Olsen, Newton’s entire receiving corps is gone. Smith, despite being a cornerstone of the team through both good and bad, was essentially not asked to return. One has to wonder if that lack of loyalty has made Carolina a less desirable destination to free agents. It certainly seems that way. The Panthers have, aside from Greg Hardy, re-signed no one of any importance. Aside from the departures on offense, two big names on defense also will be wearing new uniforms this season. Defensive backs and key contributors Captain Munnerlyn and Mike Mitchell both opted to sign with new teams instead of returning to Carolina. Gettleman even reportedly advised Hakeem Nicks to sign elsewhere, agreeing with the young receiver that the Indianapolis Colts were probably a better fit. Other free agent receivers have also left Carolina without a contract; Jerricho Cotchery departed the facility with no deal and James Jones ultimately chose to sign with the Oakland Raiders. Just think about that last statement for a second. There may not be a clearer signal of outside perception of the state of the Panthers’ organization at the moment. While free agency is almost always all about the money, players still want to win. James Jones passed up a chance to play with a promising young quarterback in Cam Newton, instead opting for a team with major question marks at the position. The three quarterbacks on the Raiders’ roster are Matt McGloin, Trent Edwards, and Terrelle Pryor. The Panthers have a lot of money tied up with their trio of running backs, neither of which is consistently good enough to be a feature back. In other words, there has been a concerted effort to invest in the running game over the past few seasons but very little return on that investment. No running game, no secondary, and no receivers. So where is this team headed after one of its better seasons in recent memory? Instead of addressing needs to position themselves to defend their seat atop the division, the Panthers have ignited speculation that they will be a “first to worst” story this season and have also drawn a great deal of criticism from the fans. Panthers’ fans are passionate and among the most supportive when things are going well, but like any other fan base will be even more vocal when they are displeased with the franchise. Around this time next year, Newton will be ready to enter his second contract and must decide if he will stay in Carolina. The team has a lot of work to do on the roster if it hopes to seduce Newton into a new deal. The problem is simply that there does not seem to be much of a plan, no blueprint for the future. Newton should have plenty of options were he to enter free agency after the season and Gettleman has his work cut out for him at this point. Newton must assume the leadership void created by Steve Smith’s departure and it also looks like his going to have to carry the offense on his back. After letting a fan favorite like Smith walk and failing to make moves of any substance to this point, the Panthers are already alienating the fan base and have increased the risk of losing their franchise quarterback. It seems the Panthers are somewhat cleaning house, possibly working to improve their salary cap position for next off-season. Or maybe Gettleman just has a different vision for this team altogether. Whatever the case may be, the team does not have long to figure out a sales pitch to keep Newton in town long-term after his rookie contract expires. As it sits right now, the Panthers look like they will have a nicely renovated stadium just in time for the team to fall apart. As Newton spends the next four months recovering from ankle surgery, he will have plenty of time to think about his future beyond this season. It is hard to imagine a player of his caliber agreeing to stay with a team that has shown little loyalty and even less direction this off-season. The fan base is already upset over the off-season roster moves, and more so the lack there of; they better be prepared for Newton’s departure because the stage is already set and he would be foolish to stay in Carolina after this season. Brian Mcmahan Wow really???? I can’t believe this article has been written. First off You should be fired for writing such a ridiculous article. Cam is going to get paid. We are so under the cap thanks to Marty Hurney tying up 60 million in the backfield. I agree Gettleman Handled the Steve Smith situation poorly but we will be Fine.!! Sidney Rice or Kenny Britt then Kelvin Benjamin in the draft. 2 lineman in the next rounds and we are straight. The media is stupid. I bet we trade up in the draft and end up with 2 wide outs and a Offensive lineman in the first 2 rounds. Just watch. And bye the way. What did laffel or Smith do last year. Nothing worth paying them much. Look at the stats. Trust in Gettleman! That is why he is a G.M. and this idiot writing this IS NOT!!!!!! Brian Mcmahan AND I MENT OVER THE CAP 3RD SENTENCE Brett How is the article ridiculous if it presents the facts? Carolina may sign Rice or Britt (who both deal with injuries and played mi and get lucky enough to draft Benjamin (who several teams are interested in trading up to get) but that is all speculation. The facts are the Panthers on the brink of a SB appearance dumped their entire WR core and have failed to sign some of the top WR on the market. I thought they would land James but he chose Oakland…who chooses Oakland? You can’t guarantee that the Panthers will sign any of the WR’s on the market or draft a good WR and as of today they are headed backwards. Hurney screwed the team over but he didn’t force Nicks or Cotchery or James to not sign in Carolina. There was obviously a red flag somewhere along their visit that told them not to sign. While i don’t think it completely demolishes all hope to make the playoffs next year it certainly doesn’t make any Panther fan fell all good inside. If the Panthers don’t sign any experienced veteran WR’s that actually have ability to make plays, then i can’t help to believe they are possibly setting it up for Cam to walk in FA (even though they can tag him a couple of years in a row if they wanted). I’d say they are tanking in order to draft Winston but the defense is too damn good to allow the Panthers to be one of the worst 3 teams. And this team still has to sign a big deal with Luke Kuechly and does he commit to a team that could consistently go 3 and out? There are still a lot of possibilities available for the Panthers and the start of the preseason is a long ways off. There is still the draft (where they could move a Stewart or DeAngelo) and sign some guys before camp. Will be interesting to see how it all plays out. Chris That was a metaphor jbrannen01 Mr. Gettleman did a great thing for this football team in his first year. I truly believe he sees Steve Smith as a distraction and Cam unable to control the team with Steve around. Steve was great for us but he is gone so get over it and give this man a chance to stump his toe before criticizing him. I believe he has the vision, has the ability and knows the right way to go. Believe it or not he is the GM of our football team and he has so far earned his pay. Give him some love! At least until his choices cause us to blunder. After all he had no money left from his predecessor.