Surgery adds to disastrous offseason

Quarterback Cam Newton will miss four months recovering from ankle surgery, his top four wide receivers from last season are on other rosters and his starting left tackle is retired.

And oh, no receivers from other teams have been signed.

If you're looking for good news on the Carolina Panthers, you're in the wrong place. The offseason has been nothing short of disastrous -- particularly on offense.

It went from bad to worse Tuesday as the Panthers announced their franchise quarterback will undergo surgery Wednesday to repair an ankle that has bothered him since late last season.

That came at about the time Pittsburgh Steelers free-agent wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery left town without a contract. He'll decide between the Panthers and a return to the Steelers soon. You couldn't blame him if he stays put, considering everything that has gone on with the Carolina offense recently.

This all began last month, when tackle Jordan Gross retired. While not totally unexpected, it was a blow in that it forced the Panthers to look for a valuable and expensive replacement. That hasn't happened in free agency. The team's top target, Cincinnati's Anthony Collins, went to NFC South rival Tampa Bay.

On Thursday, the team released its all-time leading receiver, Steve Smith, who then signed with Baltimore.

By the end of the week, No. 2 receiver Brandon LaFell (Patriots), No. 3 Ted Ginn Jr. (Cardinals) and No. 4 Domenik Hixon (Bears) had signed with other teams, and free-agent target Hakeem Nicks had picked Indianapolis over Carolina.

Cotchery's Monday-Tuesday visit was a ray of sunshine on what has been a cold, cloudy week in Charlotte. But then he left without a deal.

Then came the worst news of all: Newton's surgery.

With that, all the glow surrounding the franchise tag that kept defensive end Greg Hardy on the roster was gone.

While Newton's surgery may not be considered as serious as, say, an ACL reconstruction, his recovery period is four months. That takes Newton to the start of training camp before he's ready to go, and that's assuming there are no setbacks.

Missing four months isn't a major deal when you're returning to a group you've developed chemistry with the past three seasons. But when you're returning to a group that you've never thrown to, it's at least concerning.

Nothing against backup Derek Anderson, but he can't simulate the offense like Newton. He's more of a pure pocket passer. Newton uses his legs to buy time.

Receivers need to get used to that rhythm. Newton needs to get used to understanding how they react when he scrambles.

Not that they can't accomplish that in four or five weeks of training camp, but it would be nice to have a little time together before then. It's not like Newton is Tom Brady, who makes average receivers look like Pro Bowlers.

There also has to be concern that Newton's ankle now may be more susceptible to injury. This is a quarterback who has made a large part of his living with his legs. One bad wheel makes him less valuable.

And how does this impact discussions for a long-term deal with Newton? The Panthers can't be too gung-ho about offering anything outrageous until they see how he recovers.

Not that they can afford anything outrageous at the moment. If they could, surely they would have signed a veteran receiver by now.

My guess is Carolina will go ahead and take the fifth-year option on Newton to buy another year to negotiate a long-term deal. That probably was going to happen regardless of the surgery, but this should cement it.

The Panthers also might be smart to draft another quarterback in the middle to late rounds. Again, nothing against Anderson, but he's not the future of the organization.

And I'm pretty sure you can say the same thing about Matt Blanchard, an undrafted quarterback out of Wisconsin-Whitewater who spent the last part of last season on the practice squad.

Think about it. If the season started today, you would have Anderson throwing to wide receivers Marvin McNutt and Tavarres King.

I'll repeat: If you're looking for good news on the Panthers, you're in the wrong place.