The Carolina Panthers are in need of a quarterback. A familiar face will be the answer.
Carolina signed Cam Newton to a one-year contract Thursday hours after Jonathan A. Alexander of the Charlotte Observer reported the team scheduled a meeting with their all-time passing leader regarding a possible return to the franchise that drafted him. Newton, who played for the Panthers from 2011 to 2019, has been a free agent since the New England Patriots released him in August. NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reports the one-year contract is worth up to $10 million for the rest of year, which includes $4.5 million fully guaranteed and a $1.5 million roster bonus.
Panthers GM Scott Fitterrer on Cam Newton: "I always admired the competitor athlete. But really meeting him today, this guy is all about team. He was really an impressive person. He's coming in looking to help us. He thinks he can put us over the top."
The Panthers are in need of a starting quarterback after starter Sam Darnold suffered a fracture in his right shoulder blade. Carolina placed Darnold on injured reserve -- which means he's out for a minimum of three games. PJ Walker is scheduled to start Sunday and Carolina signed Matt Barkley this week for roster depth.
The Panthers have just two quarterbacks on the active roster, which is why it made sense to give Newton a call. Walker has struggled when he's relieved Darnold, completing just 3 of 15 passes for 33 yards with no touchdowns and no interceptions (39.6 rating). Newton is expected to start once he gets back into football shape, with the likely return in Week 11 against Washington.
Newton transformed the Panthers into a Super Bowl contender during his nine years in Carolina, winning the 2015 NFL MVP award and leading the organization to Super Bowl 50. Newton has thrown for 29,041 yards and 182 touchdowns in his career with Carolina, both the most in franchise history. He also is third on the Panthers' all-time rushing list (4,806), and his 58 rushing touchdowns are the most in franchise history.
Newton started 15 games in New England last season, the Patriots' first with a losing record since 2000. He completed 65.8% of his passes for 2,657 yards with eight touchdowns and 10 interceptions (82.9 rating). Newton rushed for 592 yards and 12 touchdowns, adding value with his legs instead of his arm. Newton scored multiple rushing touchdowns in four games in 2020, the most by any quarterback in the league. He also set the Patriots' record for most rushing attempts (137) and rushing yards (592) in a season. Newton is also the only quarterback to reach double-digit touchdowns in three separate seasons.
Among the NFL records Newton owns, he has the most rushing touchdowns ever by a quarterback (70) and the most games with a passing and rushing touchdown (32). Newton is second only to Michael Vick (6,109) in career rushing yards by a quarterback (5,398).
The Panthers have their opportunity for one final tour with the 32-year-old Newton, which may be his final chance to prove he can still start in the NFL.
How much does Carolina improve with Newton?
SportsLine Data Scientist Stephen Oh says the simulations have Carolina changes of making the playoffs improving from 8.5% to to 10.6% (assuming Newton starts his first game against Washington in Week 11). That's a 25% improvement, despite the +2.1 jump. The Panthers are 4-5 after nine games, a half game behind the Atlanta Falcons for the seventh seed in the NFC playoff picture.
With Sam Darnold
With Cam Newton
"The hope is, Newton becomes the quarterback for the Panthers before long for the sake of the rest of the Fantasy options here. He has plenty of appeal on his own -- his rushing makes him a potential top-12 QB on its own -- but if Newton can just be somewhere north of abysmal, that's an upgrade over what the Panthers have right now.
"Christian McCaffrey's best season came when Newton wasn't healthy, but he still had 107 catches with Newton in 2018, so I'm not concerned about Newton's rushing abilities taking away from him, and he would be an upgrade for D.J. Moore, who has top-12 potential himself if he can sustain his target share around 30%." -- Chris Towers (CBS Sports Fantasy Analyst)