Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton will undergo ankle surgery Wednesday. The recovery will keep him sidelined for an estimated four months, another piece of crappy news added to the pile that is Carolina's offseason.
Newton will likely recover by training camp, but it'd obviously be less concerning if a team's franchise quarterback who relies on moving outside of the pocket didn't need surgery on his ankle two months after his last game. Panthers fans can't even distract themselves from the surgery with the team's free agency moves, because, well, there haven't been many.
Carolina's wide receiver depth chart has been cleared out, with Steve Smith's release and Brandon LaFell, Ted Ginn, Jr., and Domenik Hixon finding new teams. The Panthers could have found someone available for a short, cheap deal like Hakeem Nicks or James Jones. Instead, they held, for no clear reason.
In a way, it's because of Greg Hardy, though it's not his fault. General manager Dave Gettleman—who has been excellent in the front office so far—applied the franchise tag to the defensive end, resulting in a current $13 million cap hit and less negotiating room with other players. Hardy can't be blamed for taking the money, but what was the team's plan after that?
There's still plenty of time to find replacements—and the draft in May will be the best opportunity—but the current pieces are now limited to players like Santonio Holmes and Jerricho Cotchery. Right now, Carolina's biggest moves have been re-signing backup quarterback Derek Anderson and picking up 31-year-old safety Roman Harper.
The Panthers finished last season with a surprising 12-4 record and division title. They now have to repeat that success with the hope that Newton and his surgically repaired ankle will find enough time to practice with his almost entirely new batch of receivers.