With all the current events surrounding the Carolina Panthers, during the first week of December, of the 2019 NFL season, it would certainly be cause for concern for the residents of Charlotte, North Carolina. They are likely to question the direction of their home town team, as well as the best player the franchise has ever known – quarterback Cam Newton.
The first question that lingers is: “what happened?”
That question seems appropriate, when one realizes it wasn’t that long ago – four years ago in 2015, to be exact – when you could have made the argument that Newton was the best player in football. During this season, he was the league’s MVP, passing for 35 touchdowns (a career high which also led the NFL that season), and was responsible for 45 total TD, leading the Panthers to the leagues best 15-1 record and the franchise’s only Super Bowl with their berth in SB 50.
The major issue for Cam, many deduced, was his playing style, being one of – if not – the best running QB’s in the game, which caused football enthusiasts’ concern for his safety to heighten. The worries stemmed from not only the number of hits he was taking, but ferociousness of them as well, not to mention the question regarding the legality of all of them. Some of those hits could be classified as “late” or “extreme”.
Whether or not they contributed to the physical issues Newton is currently dealing with is certainly up for debate, but one thing that just cannot be argued is that Cam’s body has started to break down. The injuries – for whatever reason you choose to attribute them to – have started to pile up. Since his MVP season in 2015, he has had two surgeries on his throwing shoulder, and on December 4th, 2019, he announced he was going to have surgery on his left foot. The same left foot that has kept him off the field and out of action since the second game of the 2019 NFL season. Initially, he decided against surgery but whatever the severity of the injury, he made the decision to go forward with the procedure.
Adding to the problems that are currently plaguing Newton, is that Ron Rivera, the only head coach he has ever known as professional player, was relieved of his duties on December 3rd, just a day before it was reported that he was going to have surgery on his left foot.
The 2020 season, which will be the final year of Newton’s contract, will garner him a salary of $21 million, which will count against the Panthers’ salary cap that season. This will severely hinder Carolina’s ownership and management from rebuilding and becoming a contender – which ownership has expressed is their intentions – and it becomes clear that this is the direction of the franchise after parting ways with Rivera. The man who has been the helm of Panthers since 2011, Newton’s inaugural season.
Which leads us to ask “where does that leave Cam?” The franchise may be looking to move on, save money, and as previously stated, the only professional coach you’ve played will no longer be there. A significant amount of the money Carolina can spend in 2020 will be on Newton and the aforementioned $21 million. If they cut or even release him before the 2020 season, the cap hit would only be $2 million.
If they go forward with that decision, where would Cam go? To Tampa Bay possibly, to play with the Buccaneers? Their current quarterback, Jameis Winston (as of Week 13) leads the league in interceptions with 20 this season. And Buc’s head coach refused to say if Winston would be back next season as his current contract expires at the end of this season. Does Newton even want to stay in Carolina? At age 31, and the team looking to rebuild, does he want to be part of that process? Does he even have the time if he’s looking to win a Super Bowl? What about the dismissal of Rivera? How will that affect things going forward?
For the Carolina Panthers and any other team interested in Newton, they would have to take into account what his playing ability would after the foot surgery, as being mobile is such a big part of his game. Not to mention his playing level overall as this is his third surgery his 2015. We don’t have answers, but are waiting to see what the future holds for Cam Newton.