The Carolina Panthers will select Cam Newton with the first pick in the NFL draft or are working hard to convince the football world they plan to.
If a team craves Newton and offers the appropriate picks the Panthers could trade down, but not too far down, and take Patrick Peterson, the fine cornerback from Louisiana State, or A.J. Green, the tremendous Georgia receiver.
Without a Collective Bargaining Agreement, however, draft day trades become more difficult since only picks, and not players, can be exchanged.
I was at Newton’s Pro Day at Auburn last week and the Panthers sent six representatives. The Panthers will return to Auburn for a private workout with Newton today. One group of Panthers was scheduled to have dinner with Newton and his family Tuesday and another group is scheduled to have dinner with him tonight.
Newton is good for Auburn tourism.
For years fans of the Panthers have watched franchise quarterbacks run onto the field at Bank of America Stadium. They line up behind the other team’s center.
Jake Delhomme was good for the Panthers. Before Jake, Steve Beuerlein was good. Before Beuerlein, Kerry Collins occasionally was good. Kerry was young and brash and could throw the ball all the way to South Blvd.
But the Panthers have never had a quarterback who was the best player in their huddle. They’ve never had a strong-armed athlete who could escape the rush and run for a first down or, with the defense in disarray, throw for it.
If you watched Super Bowl quarterbacks Aaron Rodgers and Ben Roethlisberger you know the value of a quarterback that can extend a play.
Newton is hugely controversial. One Charlotte man plans to print anti-Newton T-shirts before the draft. Many of the fans that wear them will contend that Cam is a candidate only because Philadelphia’s Michael Vick had an outstanding 2010.
But watch. Newton will play more like Roethlisberger than he does Vick or Vince Young, the running quarterback that washed out at Tennessee.
It's true that even if mini-camps are held and training camp begins on time – no certainly, obviously, because of the labor impasse – Newton probably won’t be ready to start opening day.
This will anger fans who want what they want when they want it.
But if Newton becomes a star, he will be a star for a long time. The Panthers can sign a veteran to lead them until Newton is ready.
The Panthers took Jimmy Clausen in the second round last April. Can they invest their top pick on a quarterback in consecutive drafts?
If quarterback Andrew Luck had left Stanford, what do think they'd do and who would criticize them for it?
The 2011 draft is intriguing. Peterson and Green will start and star immediately, looking good and running well.
But wait. What’s that speeding past them? Is it a Lamborghini? Is it a Ferrari?
Oh. It’s Newton.
Of course, if Newton flops, he might compel the Panthers to join AAA.
Peterson and Green don’t play quarterback. When was the last time an NFL team made a playoff run without a superior quarterback?
If the Panthers had a decent quarterback last season they wouldn’t have the No. 1 pick. They'd have won too many games.
No matter whom you are or what you do there comes a time when you disdain the safe and the predictable and you try to be great.
If you’re the Panthers the time is April 28, the place is Radio City Music Hall and the pick is Cam Newton.