Newton shouldn't fret over Kaepernick deal

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Cam Newton leaned into the microphone and stared straight ahead into the cameras like a politician trying to make an election-clinching point.

"Who's terrified?" the Carolina Panthers quarterback said. "Nobody's terrified. I'm not terrified of nothing."

That's how Newton addressed on Wednesday a report by the NFL Network that the new contract of San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick "really scares people who know Cam Newton very well."

Newton shouldn't be scared.

While Kaepernick's six-year, $126-million deal is filled with escalators and clauses that makes it sound much bigger than it is and may have set a standard by which Newton's next deal could be measured, it by no means set a limit.

That the report says Newton will want more guaranteed money than the actual $13 million Kaepernick was guaranteed should come as no surprise either.

Of course Newton wants more than $13 million up front.

If he follows this season with one as successful as 2013, he'll deserve it. He may deserve it even if the team suffers a drop-off from its 12-4 record -- as long as his performance isn't the reason.

Nothing against Kaepernick, but the way the 49ers wrote his contract to give them an out if he doesn't perform suggests the organization isn't completely sold on him.

The Panthers are sold on Newton, who has made the Pro Bowl in two of his first three seasons and brought the organization more notoriety than perhaps any player in franchise history. They have no doubt he is their quarterback of the future, and they will do everything within reason to lock him up to a long-term deal.

That's a big reason general manager Dave Gettleman has spent the past year and a half restructuring deals to get the team out from under salary-cap hell. He knows there will come a time soon when he has to pay Newton.

In all likelihood, Newton's representatives will seek a deal closer to the seven-year deal with $54 million guaranteed that Chicago's Jay Cutler received in January.

They do share the same agent, Bus Cook.

If Newton said he would take the deal Kaepernick got today, Gettleman would trip over his feet to get it signed. It would be a steal. But that isn't likely to happen.

Nothing is likely to happen until early 2015, when Newton enters the final year of his contract. There's not much incentive on Carolina's side to do anything before then unless Newton wants to commit to a bargain.

To Newton's credit, he said all the right things Wednesday. He said his concern was getting the left ankle that underwent surgery in March healthy enough that he can get back on the field.

That could come as early as next week's three-day minicamp.

Regardless, Newton is fired up about proving last season wasn't a fluke. He also is fired up about proving he's good enough to make a new group of wide receivers better than the public perception after Carolina lost its top four from last season.

That, more than a new contract, is what's on his mind.

"It's kind of like a slap in, not only their faces, but mine as well," Newton said of the criticism his new receivers have received. "The things that they're saying this year is utmost disrespect.

"For you to hear some things that's said, it's actually as if you're being picked up from the street and saying, 'Hey, you want to play receiver?'"

So why is this a slap in Newton's face? Look at it this way. Few people criticized New England's new group of receivers last season because the critics believe quarterback Tom Brady can throw to anybody and make him look good.

Newton believes he can do the same.

It would be terrifying if he didn't believe that.

"That's the chip on our shoulder," Newton said. "That's the Panther way -- not having the silver spoon in our mouth to say we're given everything. We've earned every single thing that we've got."

That's where Newton's focus should be. If he takes care of business, he'll make the guarantees in Kaepernick's contract look like pocket change.

The only thing that should terrify him is failure.

"I'm excited about what Colin Kaepernick has done because he's a friend of mine," Newton said. "Those circumstances are different for the 49ers than it is for the Panthers -- different management, different situations. For me being the Carolina Panthers' quarterback, it's my obligation to be 100 percent -- no limping, no gimping, no grimacing or nothing when it's time for me to be on that practice field.

"Everybody has an opportunity to do something great. How foolish of us to let that opportunity slip through our hands without making the most of it."