How coaching change could affect Cam Newton, other Panthers

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Gerald McCoy envisioned a winning record, his first playoff berth and maybe even a trip to the Super Bowl when he signed a one-year deal with the Carolina Panthers in June.

The 31-year-old Pro Bowl defensive lineman didn't envision standing before reporters as he did on Monday, apologizing for the performance of a 5-8 team that has lost five straight games and is looking for a coach to replace Ron Rivera, who was fired last week.

“I know the fans are disappointed,” McCoy said. “But I’m going to tell you something. ... No fan is more disappointed than the people playing the game. ... It’s our names on that tape. It’s our names being talked about.”

McCoy knows changes are coming. He’s not ready to talk about how that might have an impact on him because he’s focused on trying to beat Seattle (10-3) on Sunday and finishing the season strong.

“We’re on a skid right now,” McCoy said. “How do you right your wrongs? Beat Seattle.”

McCoy agrees with Rivera, who said in his final news conference that as long as you have a strong core of about eight players, anything can happen.

The Panthers have the makings next year of a strong core in linebacker Luke Kuechly, running back Christian McCaffrey, defensive end-tackle Kawann Short (injured reserve), defensive tackle Dontari Poe (injured reserve), safety Eric Reid, offensive guard Trai Turner and linebacker Shaq Thompson, who on Saturday got a four-year, $54.2 million extension.

They likely will try to extend the contract of cornerback James Bradberry, who is in the last year of his rookie deal.

“It’s tough to have a core as solid as this when everybody is healthy,” McCoy said. “... Take the Lakers last year. LeBron James, he still was LeBron James. He didn’t have the core guy he needed around him. With the group he has now, he doesn’t have to do that.”

What the new coach adds to the current core will determine how long it takes the Panthers to turn things around. Owner David Tepper said the focus would be on a young, offensive-minded coach who can blend old-school football with new-school analytics.

Because of age, health and salary, how will that have an impact on players such as McCoy and quarterback Cam Newton remains to be seen. Here’s a look at five players who might be most impacted by the change in the building of next year’s roster, and what the team may be thinking about each:

Cam Newton, quarterback

Original contract: 5 years, $103,800,000

Likely decision: Trade or release

If Newton recovers fully from Monday’s surgery to repair a Lisfranc injury that ended his season in Week 2, the 2015 NFL MVP still has value to the Panthers or another organization in need of a starting quarterback. The new coach had better be sure he has a replacement capable of winning before moving on from Newton, who has one year left on his contract.

Kyle Allen hasn’t proven to be that player yet. The dilemma with Newton is his age (30) and all the hits he’s taken since entering the league in 2011. After dealing with shoulder and now foot surgery, there’s the risk his body is deteriorating to the point where he can’t be the dynamic player he was as a runner and thrower. His 2020 salary-cap figure ($21.1 million) wouldn't strap the team financially. It also makes him decent trade bait for a team that believes it is close to reaching the next level. If the team doesn't keep him, the $19.1 million it would save under the cap would help the new coach build for the future. Tepper said no decision would be made until Newton is healthy. That might be a kind way of saying no decision will be made until the new coach gives his input.

Gerald McCoy, defensive lineman

Original contract: 1 year, $8 million

Likely decision: Sign

McCoy, 31, obviously will have a say in whether he wants to stay. Much depends on whether he believes the team can win immediately. Despite being a newcomer, McCoy stepped up as a locker-room leader. With five sacks, he showed he may still have a few good years left. He likely won’t demand a huge deal, relatively speaking. He can play in a 4-3 or 3-4 scheme. The new coach could use a player like him in the transition.

Greg Olsen, tight end

Original contract: 2 years, $17.1 million

Likely decision: Keep*

Analysis: This is a tough one, thus the asterisk. It easily could be release. Olsen’s cap figure for 2020 is $11.8 million and the team would save $8.1 million in cap space by releasing him. The three-time Pro Bowl selection is a captain and locker-room leader, a player a new coach seemingly would want around. This ultimately could come down to whether the 34-year-old Olsen wants to play out the final year of his contract. He’s been pursued for television jobs the past two offseasons and he might decide it’s time to retire if he gets a good offer.

Mario Addison, outside linebacker/defensive end

Original contract: 3 years, $22.5 million

Likely decision: Sign

Analysis: His age (32) will be a factor. If Addison can be re-signed for one or two years at a reasonable price, he still can be an effective pass-rusher. His 9.5 sacks lead the team.

Bruce Irvin, outside linebacker/defensive end

Original contract: 1 year, $4 million

Likely decision: Walk

Analysis: Age (32) and scheme are key here. Irvin brought much needed intensity and with 5.5 sacks, he showed he still can get after the quarterback. He helped the transition from a 4-3 to 3-4 scheme. But remember, the Panthers invested their 2019 first-round pick in edge rusher Brian Burns. It might make more sense to go with him and spend money elsewhere.