High Five: 5 Bold Predictions for the 2014 NFL Season

3 of 5

Aug 17, 2014; Charlotte, NC, USA; Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton (1) runs to the sidelines after a touchdown during the first half of the game against the Kansas City Chiefs at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Sam Sharpe-USA TODAY Sports

3) Cam Newton will not play for the Panthers in 2015

Okay, so not technically in the 2014 season, but hear me out anyway.  Cam was the first top quarterback selected in the post-CBA era, and no matter how much growth is being reported from him as a football player, in his mind, Cam is getting paid this next offseason.  Some folks thought the quarterback contract bubble would burst with Andy Dalton, and debatably it did, however; expect Cam to be on the other side of that argument.  All signs point to the Panthers having a down year, and with rookie Kelvin Benjamin likely to be their top receiver, Newton’s numbers will likely dip.  In most cases, this would work in the franchises favor, but with an ego like Cam’s and a consistently quarterback-hungry market, Cam is going to ask for Olympus.

At the beginning of this past free agency period, the Panthers had just under $14M in cap space, good for 19th in the League.  Compare that to the Bengals who were 8th in the League at the same point with $29.3M in cap space.  Where they were able to sign both Andy Dalton and Vontaze Burfict, one can see the challenge awaiting Carolina.  True, their numbers should be taken with a grain of salt as Steve Smith was not released until March, a month after these numbers were published.  Nonetheless, defensive end Greg Hardy was slapped with the franchise tag this year, and linebacker Luke Kuechly (same draft class as Burfict) must also be considered in next year’s mix as well.  Unlikely Dalton, Cam is the sort of player who will effectively say in his negotiations “pay them or me.”  It will be interesting to see how the Panthers handle that situation…