By Chris Todd (@ct1980)
While watching Cam Newton struggling over the past few years, it’s easy to forget just how spectacular and exhilarating his play has been since his rookie year in 2011. Winning rookie of the year honours, setting NFL rookie QB records for both passing and rushing, he lit up the NFL and seemed poised to become one of the faces of the NFL for the foreseeable future.
While details are murky over his latest injury and his timeline for recovery, it’s fair to wonder if we may have already seen the best from the man nicknamed ‘Superman’. With Kyle Allen performing admirably in his stead through the last two weeks, it may be the Panthers’ top brass choose to ride with Allen rather than risk Newton’s recovery over the rest of the season.
With Newton’s contract up after the 2020 season, it was expected that Cam would sign a new deal to remain a Panther at some point during the season. While those contract talks are surely on hold during his injury lay off, could this also mean the end of his time in Charlotte.
Carolina also selected a QB relatively early in this years draft, taking Will Grier 100th overall with their 3rd round compensatory pick, this was the first QB drafted by the Panthers since selecting Cam at the top of the 2011 draft. Almost certainly, this was intended as a developmental pick rather than as a direct challenge to Newton’s status in the roster.
However, given they already had a young developmental arm in the building in Allen, was this move foreshadowing Newton’s injuries being worse than they were letting on? Newton was bothered by a shoulder injury throughout the second half of the 2018 season and underwent surgery in January of this year to deal with the problem. This surgery led to him missing the Panthers OTA’s although he was able to participate in their training camp. His throwing motion seems to have changed since the surgery, and he was put on a snap count through camp to manage his workload.
With Kyle Allen’s impressive performance in relief, Newton’s shoulder problems and his uncertain recovery from his foot problems, and a top brass of owner and GM who were not insitu when Newton was drafted, could they decide a rebuild is needed? Would they even be willing to enter talks with Newton for a new deal given his injury problems of the last few years?
As mentioned earlier, Newton’s contract expires after the 2020 season, although he could theoretically be released with only a $2mil dead money charge left on their cap. Much more likely if the Panthers decide to move on, is they will have many suitors eager to take their chances on the once-electrifying playmaker.
The best outcome for all parties would surely be Newton regaining fitness and form and remaining in Charlotte, he has grown synonymous with the Panthers, and has proven to be a hugely popular leader in the locker room. He has built roots in the area, and through his foundation has given a huge amount of time and money to philanthropic causes in the Carolinas. Hopefully, the effervescent, charismatic Superman can once again work his magic.