The Carolina Panthers with their feelings about longtime quarterback Cam Newton before finally a week into free agency, but new coach Matt Rhule opened up on the team's decision in a Wednesday one-on-one with team reporter Kristen Balboni.
"Well, you know, I think the world of Cam as a person, and then everyone knows the type of player he's been for many, many years," Rhule explained. "And I hope for his sake that he'll continue to find that success wherever he ends up. I just think, for us, this time of year is a difficult time of year. You have to make tough decisions about your roster and, at the end of the day, you always have to do what's in the best interest in the team moving forward. And we felt that this decision was that."
The Panthers, of course, publicly announced they had granted Newton permission to seek a trade prior to outright cutting the 30-year-old former Pro Bowler. But it was evident pretty much from the start of the new league year that they had no intentions of keeping Newton around even if a trade didn't materialize. Newton himself fired back at the Panthers on social media, suggesting Carolina forced him into the trade "request," while Rhule and Co. signed free agent QB Teddy Bridgewater to a three-year deal early in free agency.
"It's not easy," Rhule said of the decision to replace Newton. "But this is one that we felt we had to make. We felt that Teddy Bridgewater was the guy for us, for our system, for this time, and it doesn't reflect on anyone else, it's just that we felt Teddy was the right guy for us moving forward."
Rhule, who's entering his first year atop the Panthers staff after stints at Baylor and Temple, said he's known Bridgewater since the QB's days at Louisville and reconnected with the former New Orleans Saints backup in 2019, while Baylor used the Saints' facilities to prepare for the Sugar Bowl.
"Teddy's a guy that's really won at every level that he's been at," Rhule said. "(He) won at the college level, won in the NFL, had a devastating, devastating injury, comes back, goes to New Orleans, was given a chance there, he wins again. He's just a great scheme fit for us, has been in this offense. So, really, as you're sitting there at a time when there's no offseason, he walks in Day One, he knows the verbiage, he knows the concepts ... I think he's the perfect fit for us."