There's big news coming out of Charlotte on a busy week in the NFL. The Carolina Panthers have long stood fast on not making any proclamations about the future of Cam Newton until he was completely healthy, but did say they'd keep all options on the table until further notice. It appears they're at least entertaining the thought of possibly moving on from him in 2020, with the club reportedly advising Newton he'll be allowed to explore possible trade options, the team announced.
"One of the distinct pleasures of my career was selecting Cam with the first pick in the 2011 draft," general manager Marty Hurney said in a statement. "Every year difficult decisions are made and they are never easy. 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."
For his part, Newton wants to make it clear this isn't the Panthers granting him permission to do something he wants to do, but instead him being forced out by the organization.
Cam Newton wants the smoke. pic.twitter.com/Yq5G2kWTUi— Patrik [No C] Walker (@VoiceOfTheStar) March 17, 2020
"Stop with the word play," Newton said in a social media reply to the Panthers announcement. "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!!"
He signed off of his message with "one love", but it's hard to believe much of any love is present between the two sides at the moment.
Newton, a former league MVP, is returning to the field from a Lisfranc injury that landed him on injured reserve in 2019. The Panthers have since brought in Matt Rhule as head coach, and while Rhule made it clear he admires what Newton brings to the team, there was never a definitive statement made on if the 30-year-old would return -- the door remains open for that to happen. That's at least for now, because if Newton can secure an offer both he and the Panthers agree to, it'll be the end of an era in Carolina.
It may very well be even without a trade partner, however, because Newton is set to earn $19.1 million in salary in 2020, which isn't fully guaranteed.
This means the Panthers could simply release him and add that money back to their salary cap, suffering only a $2 million dead money hit in the process. What makes this all the more interesting is the current state of NFL affairs, with the league banning teams from visiting with free agents during the coronavirus pandemic.
So while Newton will have ready-made suitors, they won't be able to put him through the paces to make sure he's fully healthy before taking on his hefty contract -- complicating matters more than slightly.
"Cam is one of the all-time greats in Panthers history," Panthers owner David Tepper said in a statement. "If you ask any of our fans for some of their most memorable moments, I'm willing to bet most of them would include Cam -- electrifying plays, giving away footballs after touchdowns, fun celebrations and big wins. His competitiveness and drive are rare.
"Off the field, you can't measure Cam's contributions. He has touched the lives of youth throughout the Carolinas and in Atlanta. He's unique and I wish him all the best."