The Panthers Didn’t Over-Pay Cam Newton

Editor’s note:  I’m now out of school for the Summer.  Have lots of cool ideas for columns in my head.  Expect a little more content from me on a weekly basis. 

I’ve always liked Cam Newton as a football player.  He’s big, strong, and has a great arm.  He’s mobile, but not in a way that’ll get himself hurt on the field.  He has a unique body type for a quarterback.  Newton is just a fun player.

The Panthers made sure they kept him.  Last week, Carolina signed Newton to a five year, $103.8 million contract extension, with $60 million of it guaranteed.  Newton was under contract for this upcoming year, and was then a free agent.  The Panthers, with locking him up, allowed him to not hit the free agent market in 2016.

He got a lot of money.  $60 million of it is guaranteed.  However, rather than paying Newton at the end of the contract, $40 million of that guaranteed money is owed to him in the next two years.  This is all precautionary by Carolina.  It allows them to pay him while he’s still in his prime, since paying a guy while he’s declining is not ideal.

Throughout the five year deal, Cam Newton’s average cap hit per year is $20.7 million.  That’s an average, keep in mind.  However, that tells a lot.  It’s a very good marker for how Newton’s deal compares to others.  The $20.7 million average cap hit ranks 3rd in the league.  So, the Panthers are paying Newton like he’s a top five QB, which is okay to their front office.

Why?  Well, look at that starting roster!  Their isn’t a whole lot there besides Newton.  They have a couple decent running backs, like Jonathan Stewart and Mike Tolbert (fullback, actually).  The wide receiver core is improving, after taking Kelvin Benjamin in last year’s Draft and Devin Funchess in this year’s 2nd round.  They do have Greg Olsen, who’s quietly becoming one of the better tight ends in the league.

Carolina’s offensive line is concerning, as it has been for awhile.  Newton may or may not be injury prone.  He had a bad ankle early last season (missed one game due to it), but that improved throughout the year.  Then, he was involved in the car accident, which obviously was an off the field thing.  Bottom line, Newton may be injury prone, but he sure is tough.  He only missed one game after the car accident, since he suffered a back injury.

The Panthers’ offensive line consists of no guards I’ve even heard of, and Jonathan Martin and Michael Oher as starting tackles.  Not great.  Ryan Kalil at center is the only bright spot on this line.  Whether you consider Newton injury prone or not, you have to be worried about that line.

The reason why Newton got all that money?  Carolina feels he’s the only reason why this team won the crappy NFC South last year.  And it’s probably the only reason why they think they can do it again this year.  There isn’t anything else on offense to help out Cam, yet.  Carolina’s still building their roster, and it’s gonna take awhile to do that, due to the hellish cap situation they’re in.  Newton perhaps means more to the Panthers than any other QB does to their team.  That’s why he’s getting paid like he is.


 

Not totally writing about this, but I’d just like to name some of the people the 49ers have lost this offseason.

  • Patrick Willis
  • Chris Borland
  • Mike Iupati
  • Frank Gore
  • Michael Crabtree
  • Jim Harbaugh
  • Anthony Davis
  • Andy Lee
  • Justin Smith
  • OC (Greg Roman)
  • DC (Vic Fangio)

Have fun next year, 49ers fans!

All numbers from Spotrac.com.

NBA Finals Preview

After preseason projections (many that failed), a long 82 game season, a sometimes boring but fun playoffs, we’ve made it here.  To the NBA Finals.

We got the favorites again.  Nobody is really shocked that these two teams are here.

Side note:  Both coaches are in their first season.  How incredible is that?  Two rookie coaches in the Finals!

For the Cleveland Cavaliers, the road through the East was a breeze.  They swept a 40 win Boston team, who was pesky at times.  Then got through a Bulls series, which plagued them injury wise, but were able to pull out due to the drowsiness of Chicago.  In the Eastern Conference Finals, they swept the 60 win Hawks, who were the biggest surprise yet also the biggest letdown this postseason.  The trip for the Cavs wasn’t all that hard, but that’s about to change.

The Warriors won 67 games this year, the best season they’ve ever had as a franchise.  In the bloodbath Western Conference, they blew everyone away, finishing the regular season 11 games ahead of the No.2 seed Rockets.  That Rockets team would meet their fate against Golden State in the West Finals.  Golden State pummeled New Orleans, escaped the grinding Grizzlies, then got by Houston last round.  They’ve been more tested than Cleveland, and look at where they are.

This Finals matchup is what everyone expected.  It’s the NBA wants.  They got it.  We got it.  Turns out, it’s not gonna be as fun as we all think.

NBA Finals: Golden State Warriors (No.1 West seed) vs. Cleveland Cavaliers (No.2 East seed)

This long break we’ve had is hopefully enough for guys like Kyrie Irving, Klay Thompson, and even Stephen Curry to get 100% healthy.  Curry seems fine, but Irving has dealing with injuries all postseason, and Thompson now has a concussion.  I’m gonna write this as if everyone, on both sides, will be healthy for Game 1.

Golden State, as a team, is just a pain to deal with.  They pose so many matchup nightmares, and no one has been able to cover them all.  However, on defense, the Warriors are going to have to make some adjustments.  Lebron James is on the court, playing for the other team.  That’s a little bit of an issue if he’s not being guarded.  He’s the one guy who Golden State is gonna have trouble covering, and that’s really scary.

With their starting lineup, it’d be correct to start Harrison Barnes on James.  However, Barnes is 225 pounds, and much skinnier than Lebron.  He’s not as physical, and with Lebron’s insane dimensions and athleticism, Barnes won’t be able to stay with him.  Going big, something that the Dubs don’t do often, looks likely.

Golden State could run a lineup with their regular starting backcourt, featuring Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala, then have Andrew Bogut at center.  Barnes, if he can’t stay with Lebron, is gonna be the odd man out, and while he’s an offensive threat, his defense would quickly become a liability.

If Golden State can’t find an answer for Lebron, it’s gonna be trouble.  Having the best player in the world turned loose on offense is a scary thought, but if it doesn’t work out defensively, it’s not like the Warriors don’t have other options.

Klay Thompson has the biggest mismatch on him in this series.  Don’t get me wrong, I love Iman Shumpert.  I think he’s super underrated.  However, Klay is a different specimen.  He’s quicker, and more athletic.  He can pull up from anywhere, and has developed a very nice get-to-the-rim game.  We know where Thompson is gonna play here, Golden State won’t screw around with moving him.  He’ll do what he does, and, if he truly is okay, will have a great matchup on his hands in these Finals.

Two of the better point guards in the league are gonna be on each other for these games, and it’ll be fun.  Stephen Curry and Kyrie Irving have taken their games to a new level this year, and not quietly.  Curry obviously won MVP, deservedly so (even though James Harden was my pick).  Kyrie, who’s battled injuries this year (especially in the postseason), has adjusted with Lebron coming in, but seems to be really figuring it out.

Their games are different.  Curry is the hot hand, three point launcher, Baby-Faced Assassin.  Kyrie has the moves, the ball-handling, the drive.  They’re different players.

The Cavaliers could experiment switching on Curry, as many speculated they could put Lebron on him at times.  That seems insane to me, but if Cleveland gets that desperate, it’s a possibility.  While Lebron is Golden State’s biggest mismatch, Cleveland’s is Curry.  And it makes total sense giving they’re the two best players in this series.

The Cavaliers can win this series if the backcourt steps up.  Guarding Steph and Klay isn’t easy.  These are the players that win games for Golden State.  These are their stars.  Cleveland has to keep them under control.  We know that when the Splash Brothers are hot, there’s nothing you can do.

I really believe there’s a chance the Warriors can win this in a sweep.  I’m going to lay that out below:

The Warriors are so good they can win games from so many different contributions and players.  Night after night, some one unexpected shows up. It’s almost like a rotation.

Here, the Cavaliers have limited room for error.  Golden State has four disticnt ways they can win a game.

  1. The Stephen Curry heat check game:  Basically, Steph goes off, has nine threes and 45 points.  No one stops him.
  2. The Splash Brothers together go off, score something like 70 points between the two of them.
  3. Andrew Bogut has a 20 points, 15 rebound game, and the Warriors kill everyone in the post (check below).
  4. Draymond Green and Bogut go 10 (points) and 10 (rebounds) each.

Guess what?  That’s four wins right there.  Four wins gets you eliminated Cleveland.

The bottom line is, that the Warriors bring too many matchups to defend.  For anyone.  That’s why they’re here.

As I said at the beginning, I didn’t think anyone could beat the Warriors in this postseason besides Memphis.  That didn’t happen.  The playoffs are all about matchups.  The Grizzlies were the only team that could possibly take advantage of the Warriors lack of size.  Turns out you need shooting too, Memphis.

Anyways, the Warriors have been unbeatable this year.  They’ve been the best team.  It only makes sense for it to end this way.

The only way, and I mean only way, the Cavaliers win this series, is if the Warriors can’t defend Lebron.  As I noted above, that’s the only guy Golden State can’t totally defend, and that’s a pretty scary thought.  However, Golden State has other ways to win games.  A Lebron take-over is something you can never rule out, but we haven’t seen that against a team that as loaded as the Warriors are.

In Cleveland, it wasn’t supposed to be like this.  Lebron was expected to have help, and yet agin, just like Miami, injuries happen, and he’s left on an island  We’re assuming Kyrie Irving is 100% here.  If so, that’s a huge boost to the Cavaliers offensive game (Kyrie is no match for Steph on defense).

If the Cavaliers somehow win this series, this goes down in Lebron’s legacy as one of his greatest achievements, and it probably moves him up my Top 25 Of All Time.  That though, has a very low probability.

Prediction: Warriors in 5

Enjoy the Cup and Finals!!!!

Stanley Cup Preview

These NHL playoffs have been amazing.  They were amazing last year.  This year, they’re beating out the NBA, in terms of excitement.

The NHL landed the dream scenario in the Conference Finals, which was something I wrote about Friday.  Neither Game 7 was great, but having two out of two series head to seven games is a huge win.  The league may have not landed the Cup matchup they wanted, but this Cup is sure to be exciting, more exciting then the NBA Finals (stay tuned for that preview).

Stanley Cup Final:  Chicago Blackhawks vs. Tampa Bay Lightning

These are two of the better offensive teams in these playoffs.  Chicago is scoring 3.29 goals a game this postseason, while Tampa Bay is scoring 2.75.    That’s a little down for Tampa Bay, especially for a team that plays so fast and gets a ton of shots.  Tyler Johnson has taken the league by storm, scoring 12 goals in 20 games.  He’s been unguardable, and Chicago will have to keep their eye out.  They have the defensemen to do it, it’s a matter of strategy.

In the East Finals, Steven Stamkos kept setting his guys up behind the net.  He’s patient with it, and waits for Johnson or Nikita Kucherov to come up the side.  When one of them break off, he fires the pass, and then they score.  It’s worked every time, and it killed the Rangers last round.

Chicago does a great job getting guys and pucks deep, and then capitalizing on it.  They run screen plays in front of the net, to distract the goalie.  They then set up from back end, and fire a shot.  Againist Ben Bishop, who’s a tad below average league wise, this has to be a play Chicago goes to.  They really get a lot off of it, and then add to their lead later.

In Chicago’s seven games against the Ducks, they scored four goals or more four times.  Anaheim responded, as expected…they put up four or more three times in the series.  The Blackhawks, with Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews (who had a great Game 7), have made it know they’re not all about defense.  They can put up a large amount of goals, and that’s a good thing against Tampa Bay.

Special teams is a big key is this series.  Tampa Bay commits a lot of penalties, and Chicago has the chance to really capitalize off of them.  The Rangers failed to do that.  The Lightning are 8th in penalty kill this postseason, hanging around 81%.  Chicago is a different team on the power play.  Like Anaheim (in earlier rounds), they go 110%.  It’s a different style of play, and it’s super hard to defend.  The Lightning have let up the most power play goals this postseason with Chicago right behind them.  These games may not get physical, but whenever an un-even opportunity comes up, that team better get something out of it.

I’ve been very harsh on Corey Crawford this postseason.  I don’t like goalies who’ve been sketchy.  In the first round, he was sketchy, but now he’s a new player.  He’s been unstoppable since that first round against Nashville.  His GAA is 2.56, which is pretty good for a team that’s been scoring a lot.  He’s 9-4, but his team is helping him out.  That should continue, and if so, Chicago looks pretty good.

Ben Bishop has been outstanding this postseason, with a GAA of 2.15.  He’s tended three shutouts, compared to Crawford’s one.  Bishop hasn’t had all the help like Crawford, which makes him look more impressive.  However, Tampa Bay isn’t going to score as much as usual in this series.  With Chicago being physical, it’s gonna be tougher to score.  Bishop is gonna be by himself; no help.  That could be problem, it could be an advantage.

I think this is going to be fun, lengthy series, unlike the NBA Finals (hint hint).  Both teams are very good at scoring.  Both have good goalies.  The defense is the key for both teams, and will both have to help their goalies.

You know I like experience, and trust me, in hockey, a chemistry-infused game, you have to have it.  Chicago has it, and Tampa Bay lacks it.  Chicago’s players have been here before.  They’ve won a Cup.  It’s been 11 years since Tampa Bay won (in 2004.  Side note: That roster was loaded).  No one is here anymore from that team.  This is new ground for Tampa Bay, and it needs roots.

I don’t hate Tampa Bay.  I’m not happy they beat my Rangers, but I don’t hate them.  I hate Boston and Pittsburgh.

I think the Lightning are really, really good.  They’re good enough to get here.  However, Chicago has the experience.  Chicago has better defense.  They have more do-it-all guys.  That’s the difference.  Guys who make impacts everywhere are so valuable.  Chicago has countless players like that.  Tampa Bay has two, and maybe only one.  You need multiple impact guys to win a championship, and it doesn’t matter what sport it is.  Chicago has them.  The Lightning lack them.  That’s why the Blackhawks win the Cup.

Prediction: Blackhawks in six

NBA Finals Preview coming later this week….