Sports | November 6, 2019 3:08 pm

Is Cam Newton Done in Carolina?

The 30-year-old has no more guaranteed money on his five-year contract

Cam Newton's Carolina Career Could Be Over
Cam Newton was placed on IR by the Carolina Panthers. (Jacob Kupferman/Getty)
Getty Images

Yesterday, the Carolina Panthers placed franchise quarterback Cam Newton on injured reserve thanks to a lingering Lisfranc injury to his foot that has kept him out for all but two of his team’s games this season.

Second-year quarterback Kyle Allen, who has won five of six starts this season in place of Newton, paid tribute to his injured teammate in an Instagram post after it was announced the team was sending Newton to IR.

“I watched this man do everything in his power to come back from his injury,” Allen wrote on Instagram. “I watched him lead and be a great teammate day in day out. ⁣Thank you for setting the example. We got you.”

That’s kind of Allen to say, but it seems increasingly unlikely the Panthers will actually have Newton’s back once — or maybe if — he’s healthy enough to return to playing football.

The first reason isn’t a surprising one: money.

Newton is in the second-to-last year of a contract that no longer has any guaranteed money on it. By cutting or trading Newton before June, the team would save $19.1 million on the 2020 salary cap and carry only $2 million in dead money, according to OverTheCap.

While $21.1 million isn’t a prohibitive cap number for a starting quarterback in today’s NFL, it’s far too much to pay for a player who can’t stay on the field.

While that hasn’t traditionally been a problem with Newton despite the physical brand of football he plays and the number of times he’s carried the ball during his career (almost 1,000 including the playoffs), the 30-year-old missed two games last season and will miss at least 14 this year due to injury.

Considering Newton has taken much more punishment than any other quarterback in the league since 2011 (1,235 hits according to ESPN), odds are he’s going to miss more games as the years continue to progress.

Then, there’s the issue of how Newton has fared when he’s actually able to play.

In the four seasons since Newton named MVP after leading the Panthers to a 15-1 regular-season record and a berth in the Super Bowl against the Denver Broncos, Carolina has gone just 23-23 with the three-time Pro Bowler under center.

Dating back to last season, Newton has lost eight straight starts and thrown 10 interceptions compared to just nine touchdowns. For a player who threw 35 touchdowns and was picked off just 10 times in his MVP season, it’s been a sharp fall from grace and one that’s showing no sign of stopping.

Perhaps already realizing that was the case, the Panthers took quarterback Will Grier in the third round of the 2019 draft and the West Virginia product would probably be starting for Carolina were Allen not finding success as the team’s lead signal-caller.

Related: The End Is Near for the Best Quarterback Class of the 2000s

Allen’s success and Grier’s presence on the roster would make it easier for the Panthers to part ways with Newton during the offseason without having to worry about finding someone to step in and replace him during the upcoming draft in April.

For a win-now team with a top-ranked defense and the NFL’s leading touchdown scorer in dual-threat running back Christian McCaffrey, that’s a huge worry to take off the plate of head coach Ron Rivera and general manager Marty Hurney.

If the Panthers do make the decision to move on from Newton this offseason instead of letting him linger around too long the way the Giants have with Eli Manning, there certainly won’t be a shortage of quarterback-needy teams who may be interested in his services.

As bad as Newton has been of late, the Bears (Mitch Trubisky), Titans (Marcus Mariota/Ryan Tannehill), Bengals (Andy Dalton), Buccaneers (Jameis Winston), Redskins (Dwayne Haskins/Case Keenum) and Broncos (Brandon Allen/Joe Flacco) would all probably rather have him than their respective quarterbacks.

Hell, if Tom Brady hangs up his cleats after this season, maybe the Patriots — who Newton has gone 2-0 against in his career — would want to bring him to New England to fulfill offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels’ (who drafted Tim Tebow and was high on Lamar Jackson) desire for a mobile quarterback.

“For so long I played this game one way,” Newton said in a video posted on YouTube after he was first sidelined. “I played this game the only way I know how to play. And at this particular time, that No. 1 that’s out there, that hasn’t been that same person.”

If No. 1 ever gets back out there, it probably won’t be for the same team.