This article is part of our Team Previews series.
STATE OF THE FRANCHISE
With a 2-14 finish in 2010, the Panthers decided to take the organization in a new direction and fired long-time head coach John Fox, replacing him with former Bears' and Chargers' defensive coordinator Ron Rivera. After hiring Rivera, the Panthers drafted Auburn quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton with the number one overall pick to be the face of the franchise moving forward.
Never mind the fact that the team spent a 2010 second-round draft choice on former Notre Dame quarterback Jimmy Clausen, who led the team in passing yards last season. In addition to Newton and Clausen, the Panthers signed Derek Anderson to help the youngsters battle it out for the starting job (or possibly compete for it himself, though it's unlikely he'll win it).
The addition of Newton certainly began the process of rebuilding the team and it was rumored that owner Jerry Richardson would start spending lots of money to make tit better. They lived up to one side of the equation, but the other is a major question mark. After having the opportunity to let DeAngelo Williams go via free agency, the Panthers decided to reward the 28-year old running back, who has played in just 19 games the past two seasons, with a brand new five-year, $43 million contract, with $21 million guaranteed. With Jonathan Stewart and Mike Goodson already coming back, many wondered why the Panthers would give an aging running back so much money. And the debatable