Inside the Panthers

What Derek Carr’s monster deal means for the Panthers’ Cam Newton and other NFL QBs

Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr became the NFL’s first $25 million-a-year man. But Carr’s deal, announced this week, won’t impact Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton – yet.
Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr became the NFL’s first $25 million-a-year man. But Carr’s deal, announced this week, won’t impact Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton – yet. AP

The reaction from some NFL fans – including my dad – to quarterback Derek Carr’s monster deal with Oakland was somewhat predictable:

“What’s he ever done?”

And while it’s true Carr has led only one winning season in three years in Oakland, that season came just before he entered his final year of his contract (due to the good fortune – in this case –of being a second-round pick without a fifth-year option).

Carr parlayed that production and timing into the richest contract in NFL history, at $125 million over five years. But that’s a distinction Carr won’t keep very long.

Cam Newton’s salary cap number will peaks at $23.2 million in 2019. That’s when the Panthers could begin discussions about reworking Newton’s deal.

Colts quarterback Andrew Luck was the league’s highest-paid player for exactly 51 weeks after signing a six-year, $140 million deal last June.

Even before Carr put pen to paper in Oakland, there were already stories popping up about how his deal would benefit Matthew Stafford, Kirk Cousins, Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota when it’s their turn at the trough.

How does Carr’s deal affect the Panthers’ Cam Newton?

Not much, although there’s not an NFL agent who would disagree with the rising-tide-lifts-all-boats aphorism.

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Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton is just two years into the five-year, $103.8 million extension he signed in 2015. Davie Hinshaw dhinshaw@charlotteobserver.com

Newton is just two years into the five-year, $103.8 million extension he signed in 2015.

Newton received $60 million in guarantees, including $41 million guaranteed at signing – compared to $70 million in guaranteed money, and $40 million at signing for Carr.

Newton will make $67.5 million over the first three years of the deal, which runs through the 2020 season. Carr reportedly will make $85 million over the first three years.

Newton’s salary cap number will exceed $20 million beginning this season, peaking at $23.2 million in 2019. That’s when the Panthers could begin discussions about reworking Newton’s deal, provided his play returns at a level closer to his MVP season of 2015 and not his inconsistent, injury-plagued performance of a year ago.

I happen to think a healthy Newton will have a big bounce-back season, playing with a couple of new weapons in Christian McCaffrey and Curtis Samuel. But the proof will be in the pudding, or in Newton’s case, Dannon Greek yogurt.

As for Carr, my dad’s not the only guy questioning the credentials of the NFL’s first $25 million-a-year man. Carr himself wondered aloud whether he was worthy.

“All of my teammates to a man said, ‘Man, you work your tail off, you deserve it,” Carr said during a press conference, per the Associated Press. “I don’t feel like I deserve it. But just them saying that grabbed my heart because they’re the ones I go to battle with, they’re the ones I work with every single day.”

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Oakland quarterback Derek Carr, center, returned from an injury to direct two scoring drives to carry the Raiders to a 35-32 victory against the Panthers in a Week 12 game. Cam Newton later said Carr deserved the MVP trophy that ultimately went to Matt Ryan. Jeff Siner jsiner@charlotteobserver.com

Interestingly, Newton was among those singing Carr’s praises last season after David Carr’s younger brother rallied the Raiders against the Panthers in Week 12.

That was the game in which Oakland jumped to a 24-7 lead, then fell apart after Carr dislocated his pinky finger on a botched center exchanged. The Panthers went on a four-touchdown binge to grab a 32-24 lead heading into the final quarter.

Then Carr returned and directed two scoring drives to carry the Raiders to a 35-32 victory.

A couple weeks later on a conference call with Tampa reporters, Newton said Carr deserved the MVP trophy that ultimately went to Matt Ryan. Newton described the importance of Carr to the Raiders.

“When we played Oakland, it was a different team. When he came back in ... the energy was just as impactful as anybody coming back in the game, and what he meant to his team was everything,” Newton said, according to the Tampa Bay Times. “That’s why I’d vote for him.”

Joseph Person: 704-358-5123, @josephperson

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