Print and Go Back ESPN.com: NFC South [Print without images]

Tuesday, July 26, 2011
Panthers must sign Cam Newton quickly

By Pat Yasinskas
ESPN.com

While he tries to re-sign free agents like Charles Johnson and DeAngelo Williams, Carolina general manager Marty Hurney has one very important contract that must get done quickly.

That’s signing No. 1 overall draft pick Cam Newton. The Panthers and Newton’s agents are expected to begin negotiations today. Heck, they may already be talking and Newton already walked past reporters on his way to report to Bank of America Stadium. Although the new rookie wage scale should make contract numbers somewhat obvious, there’s no margin for error on this one. The wage scale should give Newton a four-year deal worth around $22 million with an option for a fifth year that would add roughly another $14 million.

There certainly is no room for any delay. The Panthers report to camp on Friday and will begin practice on Saturday. It’s more important than ever that the Panthers don’t have a holdout situation.

They need Newton on the field from the very first practice of training camp. He’s missed an entire offseason of work with the coaching staff. If there’s any chance of Newton being the starter on opening day or even playing early in the season, he needs to have a good training camp and he needs to be practicing right from the start.

If Newton misses practice time or isn’t ready, the Panthers may have to open the season with Jimmy Clausen or even a veteran free agent.