A week after the 49ers signed quarterback Colin Kaepernick to a team-friendly deal, Panthers quarterback Cam Newton may have to fend off an effort to get him to accept a similar structure. Other young franchise quarterbacks may have to do the same thing.
For Newton’s part, he’s not concerned about the issue. Yet.
Via the team’s official Twitter page, Newton told reporters that he’s focused on recovering from ankle surgery. He unexpectedly underwent the procedure in March.
“It’s my obligation to be 100%,” Newton said.
That attitude meshes with his comments from February, when he said he won’t be staying away from any activities, voluntary or mandatory, in an effort to get a new contract.
Regardless of what Newton wants, agent Bus Cook will have to be willing and able to stop the Panthers from forcing the Kaepernick structure onto Newton. The easy solution will be to call the Kaepernick deal the aberration that it is. The more difficult compare-and-contrast will come from pointing to the very real differences between the two players’ abilities, experience, achievements, and leverage.
When it comes to leverage, Newton actually is at a disadvantage, for now. Kaepernick signed his deal while only one year from free agency. Newton has two more years under contract.
Ultimately, Newton’s best tactic for avoiding a similar structure to Kaepernick could be declining to talk about a contract until after the 2014 season, if not later. With millions more in the bank (but not as many as he would have had a year earlier) as the top pick in the draft, Newton doesn’t need the money. So he can bet on himself over the next two years, forcing the Panthers into a difficult spot come 2016, when they’ll have to decide whether to use the non-exclusive franchise tag and risk losing him to another team (in exchange for two first-round draft picks), to apply the exclusive franchise tag (which on a year-to-year basis entails a salary and a cap number that quickly spiral out of control), or to sign him to a long-term, market-value deal.
So it’s good that Newton isn’t thinking about his contract. His best play could be to keep it that way for two more seasons.