The Carolina Panthers could have their star quarterback cleared for action as early as next month, but not without some limitations.
According to The Athletic’s Jourdan Rodrigue, the Panthers are optimistic about the likelihood of Cam Newton passing his physical and being cleared for some football activity in March, but Carolina isn’t looking to hurry him back into full-time team activities. Newton only just two months ago had surgery on his left foot to repair a Lisfranc injury that essentially cost him the entire 2019 season.
Rodrigue’s source said the Panthers have discussed limiting the former league-MVP passer through spring workouts in April and May, but the bigger question remains whether Newton will even still be with the team after rumors have swirled for months about his future.
The Panthers fired Ron Rivera — now leading the Washington Redskins — from his head coaching post back in December and hired former Baylor coach Matt Rhule to usher in the new era, but team owner David Tepper hasn’t committed to Newton being a part of it with his health still uncertain. While he has spent all nine of his NFL seasons with the Panthers, Newton has only twice since 2013 started in all 16 games and is currently on an eight-game losing streak as a starter.
The 30-year-old quarterback is due to earn about $21.1 million in 2020 if he plays the final season of his five-year contract, but the Panthers could skirt almost all of that money if they traded Newton this offseason — or even cut him for the sake of savings.
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What Options Could Panthers Have for Future?
A healthy Newton can be good for multiple reasons. If he’s the future — and maybe he is — there is the obvious benefit of getting him adjusted to the new coaching staff and figuring out how to build the team around him moving forward. Newton took the Panthers to the doorstep of a Super Bowl title once before, and there’s no saying he couldn’t do so again.
If he’s not the future, Newton’s health will be the first question on the mind of any potential trade partner that might be willing to send some draft picks to Carolina for the three-time Pro Bowler. The market is loaded with free-agent quarterbacks that will command big money, but there are a number of teams that could still be interested in his talents.
While it would be quite the blockbuster trade, the Panthers could potentially offload Newton to put themselves in a position to draft a rookie quarterback in 2020. The Cincinnati Bengals probably aren’t willing to part with the No. 1 overall pick, but they could maybe deal Newton and either another player or some draft picks to get on the board early. Maybe Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa or Oregon’s Justin Herbert?
It doesn’t seem too likely the Panthers will elect to move forward with either of their two backup quarterbacks, either. They spent much of the 2019 season trying to win with former undrafted free agent Kyle Allen before giving the final two starts to 2019 third-rounder Will Grier, who threw four interceptions, no touchdowns and just 228 yards in his only two games.