This offseason we'll see how the new CBA holds up with the first wave of rookies -- the class of 2011 -- approaching their initial eligibility for new contracts. For example, the Panthers will likely pick up the fifth-year option on first-overall pick Cam Newton. But they might not necessarily extend him.
Even if they don't, Newton has no interest in holding out before Carolina's 2014 season.
"Absolutely not," Newton told Mike Florio on the Dan Patrick Show.
Newton was asked about Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson, who recently left the door open for the possibility of holding out. And Cam pointed out that it would "not be a good look for me" as a "leader" if he held out.
"I think our positions are completely different,” Newton said. "Being the leader of this team, I don't think that would be a good look for me. Not taking anything away from Patrick, he's an unbelievable player, and an elite corner in the league. But there's some things cornerbacks can do that quarterbacks can't.
"I'm not worried about contract discussions right now. My main focus is just becoming the better player I can become."
Pat P probably doesn't love Cam's comments that the two guys are different but what Newton is saying here's a lot less about Peterson and a lot more about Cam. If Newton held out, Panthers fans would melt down and flood local talk radio demanding Carolina cut him and roll with Derek Anderson. They do that anyway and you do NOT want to hear what Rodney Harrison would have to say about Cam holding out.
It's smart of Cam to understand that a) the Panthers will pay him handsomely and b) if they somehow don't, he will get real paid on the free agency market.
Even option (c) isn't terrible. Carolina could potentially pick up the fifth-year option, let him ride out 2014 on his current contract, pay him the option money and then franchise him for a sixth year. That would be insulting to Cam as a "top quarterback" but he would make many millions of dollars that way too.
“I don't think that's my main focus right now,” Newton said on a new contract. “My main focus is trying to become a better player. I think Russell Wilson put a lot of pressure on young quarterbacks, but needless to say, we don't have that fallback answer no more. We're no longer young quarterbacks.
"Going into my fourth year, I want to make that leap, make that stride to be a marquee quarterback in this league."
2014 is a big year for Cam. He's taken steps in different ways -- he didn't actually "regress" like people thought in his second year and his efficiency and late-game play were superb in 2013. His on- and off-field leadership dramatically improved in his third year as well. He seemed to "get it."
Newton has unlimited upside. It's about putting it all together. He's at least thinking smart, though, by ignoring contract talk and worry about producing on the field.