The Carolina Panthers are reportedly on the verge of signing quarterback Cam Newton to a five-year extension, bringing his contract value over $100 million, per NFL Network's Ian Rapoport. Without seeing the guaranteed money, it is impossible to critique the deal, but one thing is very clear: Newton is not worth a cap-crippling contract.
Newton was the first-overall pick in 2011 and since then, has been somewhat of an enigma. The 26-year-old is 30-31-1 when starting and has won the NFC South twice, along with chalking up a playoff victory. Even with a terrific defense led by Thomas Davis and Luke Kuechly, Newton has only posted a winning season once and that playoff win? Beating Ryan Lindley in a hideous game.
The Heisman Trophy winner isn't a bust, but he certainly isn't the quality of other top-level quarterbacks who have been drafted high in recent years. Andrew Luck and Matthew Stafford have both been markedly better, and one could compare first-round pick Ryan Tannehill to Newton as well. Newton has the flash and sizzle of a star, but his production is middling.
Newton's main problem is accuracy. Through four seasons with the Panthers, Newton has never eclipsed 62 percent and last year, regressed from 61.7 percent in 2013 to 58.5 percent. For comparison's sake, Newton ranked 29th of 33 qualifying quarterbacks, ahead of Derek Carr, Josh McCown, Brian Hoyer and Drew Stanton.
Perhaps more telling, Geno Smith and Blake Bortles were the two players who finished directly ahead of him.
If Newton's accuracy was a product of missing on deep, contested throws, it would be more understandable. However, that's not the case. Newton only averaged 6.98 yards per attempt last year, coming in 25th. The two players ranking ahead of him were Austin Davis and game-manager extraordinaire Alex Smith. The touchdown-to-interception ratio was also far from impressive, sitting at 18:12.
All too often, Newton misses open receivers because he fails to get through his progressions or is late throwing the ball.
He makes tremendous throws at times and uses his athleticism to break big plays, but his fundamentals and accuracy are terrible. While he doesn't have Jerry Rice and Michael Irvin on his team, a supporting cast of Olson and Benjamin is nothing to laugh at. Carolina needs to add much more, but other quarterbacks have done more with less.
In fairness to the Panthers, it is understandable why they are going to pay Newton in excess of $100 million. The potential is there, and from a marketing standpoint, the former Auburn star is golden. Additionally, even mediocre quarterbacks in this age are getting paid a mint.
Last offseason, the Cincinnati Bengals paid Andy Dalton $96 million over the next six years, expiring in 2020. Dalton is yet to win a playoff game and threw for 3,398 yards with 19 touchdowns and 17 interceptions in 2014. The San Francisco 49ers gave Colin Kaepernick $114 million over six years with $61 million guaranteed. Last season, Kaepernick completed 60.5 percent of his throws with 19 touchdowns and missed the playoffs.
Ultimately, Newton's career will be judged on his success in January and February. To this point, those accomplishments are limited despite playing in a poor division. Newton must understand how to make the simple plays before becoming an elite quarterback, worthy of such dollar figures.
Until that maturation comes, Newton is an overpaid signal-caller on an underperforming team.
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