Report: Panthers had eye on Russell Wilson to back up Newton

Seahawks coach Pete Carroll wasn’t going to let go of Wilson. (USATSI)
Seahawks coach Pete Carroll wasn’t going to let go of Russell Wilson. (USATSI)

While some might have been confused why the Seahawks would draft Russell Wilson in the third round last year after signing free-agent Matt Flynn to a decent-sized contract as the apparent starter, the Panthers perhaps could understand the reasoning behind it.

Forget for a moment that Seattle was vindicated big-time by Wilson’s emergence as a top-10 quarterback while leading the Seahawks to the 2012 postseason and that pick now looks like a brilliant maneuver. Carolina can understand Seattle’s position, because, according to friend of the blog, the Charlotte Observer’s Joe Person, the Panthers had their eye on Wilson as well.

Not to compete for the starting quarterback job but, instead, to back up Cam Newton.

“The thought was that they wouldn’t have to rip up the playbook if Newton were injured because Wilson could run the same zone-read plays in sort of a mini-Cam package,” Person writes.

But Carolina also didn’t figure to draft Wilson until the later rounds, which sounds about right if you know you want the quarterback you’re selecting to be a backup (Kirk Cousins, though, is a good argument why you can -- and maybe, should -- get your backup as early as the third round).

Newton’s backup last season was Derek Anderson, who completed 100 percent of his passes (all four of them, anyway) but only played two games. Considering Anderson has started 43 games in his career, you could feel somewhat confident that he’d be OK in replacing Newton. The offense, though, would have to be adjusted to Anderson’s more traditional pro quarterback skill set.

Anderson figures to be the backup headed into next season as well (Jimmy Clausen is currently the team’s No. 3 quarterback), and perhaps the idea of finding a backup who equates well to Newton’s offensive skills has been downplayed.

“You don’t hear as much talk about the Panthers looking for a possible backup quarterback in this year’s draft,” Person said. “One reason: E.J. Manuel, the most athletic quarterback in the draft, will be gone well before the Panthers would consider using a pick on a quarterback. But it also could signal that, with Rob Chudzinski gone to Cleveland, the Panthers plan to run less read option -- whether it’s with Newton or backup Derek Anderson.”

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