Editorial

Superman Is Dead: Cam Newton’s Days In Carolina Are Numbered



“Behind the scenes he’s working his ass off every day to get healthy. It’s tough to see him go on IR, but I know he’s going to handle it well and I know he’s going to do everything he can to get back to his full potential.”

2019 – Panthers QB Kyle Allen on Cam Newton’s Injury Recovery

The Carolina Panthers made the decision to place longtime franchise quarterback Cam Newton on season-ending injured reserve Wednesday, due to a lingering Lisfranc injury in his left foot that has kept the ailing signal-caller off the field for the past six weeks. This ends a trying season for the former-Heisman Trophy winner, whose foot isn’t responding to treatments. 

This is just the latest in a long line of injuries that have plagued Newton over the last five years. In the offseason, he opted for surgery on his right, throwing shoulder and underwent an intense rehabilitation process to return to the field this season for a Panthers team in desperate need of their star quarterback. After starting 6-2 last season, the team struggled down the stretch to finish 7-9. 

Carolina was hoping to rebound this season with a healthy Cam…

The good news is that the franchise has managed to start this season strong behind the MVP-esque play of running back Christian McCaffrey. The bad news is that they’ve been doing it without the 2015 National Football League MVP, while backup Kyle Allen has been solid in leading the team to a 5-3 record that is good enough for second place in the NFC South division standings.

With the injured star out indefinitely, and his contract expiring in one-year, the Panthers may very well elect to move on from Newton. Evidence would suggest this is a viable option for a franchise who currently sits at a crossroads while wondering if the “Superman” era has seen its final act.



Injuries

Injuries have plagued Newton dating back to 2014. That season, he missed two games due to a fractured rib and herniated disc in his back. No stranger to contact, the Auburn draftee has become a mere shell of himself after being hit more times (1,235) than any other quarterback since 2011. 

After his 2015 MVP campaign peaked with a loss to the Denver Broncos in the Super Bowl 50, Newton missed another game the following season after suffering a concussion. Then, he opted for shoulder surgery on his rotator cuff in March 2017. The woes didn’t stop there either. He re-aggravated the shoulder and returned to the surgeon’s table in January 2019.

With a playing style deeply-rooted in running the football, Cam has defined the dual-threat quarterback position in the NFL. However, the hits on his body have certainly taken their toll and it’s unlikely he can continue taking the abuse as he enters his thirties.

Money Factor

Cam has one season remaining on his current five-year, $103.8 Million deal signed in 2015. With no guaranteed money remaining, it would make sense for the Panthers to cut or trade him after this season. In that scenario, the team would save $19.1 Million on the 2020 salary cap, leaving them with only $2 Million in dead money.

The savings would be a sound financial decision for Carolina, who are expected to offer a hefty extension to McCaffrey because of the MVP-caliber numbers he is posting this season. A reallocation of the team’s funds is necessary, as it’s highly unlikely that Newton’s declining on-field performance will warrant an extension reflective of the current market value figures for thriving, franchise quarterback contracts.

On-Field Decline

Newton is no longer a “top” quarterback due to the fact the Panthers are winless in his last eight starts. Since losing Super Bowl 50, he ranks 30th in the NFL in QBR (48.6) which would place him in the company of Cincinnati Bengals QB Andy Dalton and Los Angeles Rams backup Blake Bortles.

Although his 4,806 career rushing yards from the quarterback position rank third in NFL history, he has rushed for 33 yards or more only once in his last nine starts.

Long story short, Cam is declining. Unless he can reinvent himself as an “accurate” pocket passer, it’s certain that his misfortunes will continue. At the end of the day, elite quarterback money is supposed to guarantee wins. Hopes and dreams aren’t what cashes or writes checks at the professional level.

The Backup

Kyle Allen’s steady performance in Newton’s absence has given the Panthers a reason to be optimistic. In his career as a starter, he is 6-1 and has been efficient this season while throwing nine touchdown passes compared to only four interceptions.

Often, he is calm and collected. Traits that have garnered him an earned-respect from other veterans in the Carolina locker room. He has a tendency to step-up as a leader. Pair that with a team-friendly rookie contract, and it’s easy to understand why the franchise would want to give him a chance to develop into a reliable NFL starter. 

With Newton’s season over, his audition will extend and no longer will he be looking over his shoulder. With the Panthers vying for a playoff spot, he may draw the admiration of coaches, teammates, front-office executives, ownership, and fans in the even he continues his winning ways.



The Panthers were all in on Cam. Now, it’s highly likely his best days are behind him and the cost of extending his window as the franchises starting quarterback is a gamble. Unfortunately, he’s become unreliable as a quality starter and is injury prone. Giving him a high-dollar extension would be salary cap suicide and inhibit the team’s possibility of maximizing McCaffrey’s prime years. 

Teams like Tampa Bay, Tennessee, Chicago, Miami, and Denver are all in desperate need of improved quarterback play. At only 30-years-old, it’s likely Newton will be given a chance by one of these franchises that are looking to upgrade from their current situation. Maybe, the time off will be good for Newton and he can revitalize his career with a renewed approach? At the very least, the Panthers will inherit a mid-round pick in exchange for his dual-threat style, which will probably break down and land “Superman” in the body shop again. There are just too many hard miles on those tires.


“We trust in ‘7.’ It’s an unfortunate situation for Cam. He’s a hell of a player. But life goes on. He knows that, we know that. ‘7’ is the guy now and we’ve got complete faith in him. I’m behind him.”

2019 – Panthers DE Bruce Irvin on transition to Kyle Allen

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