am Newton's Future in Carolina in Doubt After Panthers Place Him on IR
Cam Newton at Bank of America Stadium on September 12, 2019. (Grant Halverson/Getty)
Getty Images
By Evan Bleier / March 18, 2020 3:00 pm

Because every major American sport that’s typically played at this time of year is now in absentia thanks to the COVID-19 outbreak, we’re shifting our attention to the most important signings, trades, rumors and trends around the NFL via a dedicated daily column. This is Free Agency Watch.

In his fifth season in the NFL, Cam Newton had one of the most productive seasons in history at the quarterback position when he completed 59.8 percent of his passes for 3,837 yards and 35 touchdowns while adding 636 rushing yards on 132 carries and an additional 10 rushing scores.

Newton, 30, won the MVP that season after leading the Carolina Panthers to a 15-1 regular-season record and a Super Bowl berth.

During that Super Bowl, which the Panther lost to the Denver Broncos 24–10, Newton was hit by Von Miller and let the ball slip through his fingers.

Even though the game was still in the balance, Newton didn’t make an effort to recover the ball — and his career in Carolina has been slipping away ever since.

In the four seasons since winning MVP and making the Super Bowl, Newton led the Panthers to a 23-23 record and missed all but two games last year due to a foot injury that required surgery which he is still rehabbing from.

Though the team initially said they planned to “move forward” with Newton as their quarterback, that plan changed dramatically and yesterday Carolina general manager Marty Hurney made it known the team had granted the former face of the franchise permission to seek a trade.

“Every year difficult decisions are made and they are never easy,” Hurney said. “We have been working with Cam and his agent to find the best fit for him moving forward and he will always be a Carolina Panther in our hearts.”


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In a comment on the Panthers’ Instagram post about the trade, Newton clapped back on the notion he had asked out of Carolina.

“Stop with the word play,” he wrote. “I never asked for it. There is no dodging this one; I love the Panthers to death and will always love you guys. Please do not try and play me, or manipulate the narrative and act like I wanted this; you forced me into this. Love.”

Regardless of what Newton wants, he won’t be back in Carolina as the team finalized a three-year deal with free-agent quarterback Teddy Bridgewater that will pay him $63 million with $40 million of that guaranteed over the contract’s first two seasons.

The size of that deal ensures that Newton will not be back with Carolina and, now that other teams know it and the Panthers have no leverage to negotiate, he’ll probably be released outright for nothing instead of traded.

It might not be as shocking as Tom Brady bolting from New England to head to Tampa Bay like some snowbird with a penchant for jorts, but the ugly end of Newton’s run with the Panthers is certainly surprising when you consider where he was just four seasons ago. (Interestingly enough, as of this writing, Newton’s most likely landing spot is New England.)

While it had been theorized Newton might end up in Chicago, that is not going to happen as the Bears have acquired quarterback Nick Foles from the Jaguars in exchange for a 2020 fourth-round pick.

Foles will carry a $15.125 million guaranteed cap hit with him to Chicago this year, so he will likely have every opportunity to wrest the starting job away from incumbent QB1 Mitchell Trubisky.

Elsewhere in the NFL on Wednesday, the Chargers signed defensive tackle Linval Joseph, formerly of the Vikings, to a two-year contract worth $17 million, the Saints signed former Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins and the Lions acquired defensive back Duron Harmon from the Patriots in a move that looks like a salary dump by New England.

The Lions also signed another former Patriot, defensive tackle Danny Shelton, to a two-year contract worth $8 million, the Cowboys signed defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, formerly of the Panthers, to a three-year contract and the Bills signed defensive tackle Vernon Butler, formerly of the Panthers, to a two-year deal for $16 million.

After letting Philip Rivers leave town to sign with the Colts in Indianapolis, there was some speculation the Chargers would look to bring in another quarterback. But, as of now, they are not expected to sign or trade for a veteran QB which means Los Angeles will move forward with veteran Tyrod Taylor under center. Of course, LA does have the No. 6 overall pick in the upcoming draft and could look to address the position then.

Elsewhere in the NFL, the Falcons agreed to terms with defensive end Dante Fowler, formerly of the Rams, on a three-year, $48 million contract, running back Taiwan Jones, formerly of the Texans, agreed to a one-year contract with the Bills and the Rams agreed to a deal with linebacker Leonard Floyd, formerly of the Bears, on a one-year, $10 million contract.

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