|Day of reckoning arrives for Cam Newton and Carolina Panthers|
|Contract, injuries and Kyle Allen put future in doubt|
|Published Thursday, November 7, 2019 1:29 pm|
|PHOTO | CURTIS WILSON|
|The Panthers designated quarterback Cam Newton for the injured reserve list on Tuesday, ending his eligibility to return for regular season play. He is eligible for the postseason if his injured foot heals and Carolina qualifies.|
Superman, it turns out, really has a Kryptonite problem.
When the Panthers designated Cam Newton for the injured reserve list Tuesday, they did the inevitable. The quarterback’s mid-foot sprain hasn’t improved, and at this point in the season, won’t be of much use to the team going forward unless they earn a postseason berth.
“For the past seven weeks, Cam has diligently followed a program of rest and rehab and still is experiencing pain in his foot,” general manager Marty Hurney said Tuesday. “He saw two foot specialists last week who agreed that he should continue that path prescribed by the team’s medical staff, and that it likely will take significant time for the injury to fully heal.”
Is it the end of Newton’s time in Carolina? Smart money says it is, but I’m not quite convinced.
Ultimately, the resolution won’t come from Newton. It’ll come from the Panthers.
Think of this as an audition opportunity. For Kyle Allen, it’s a chance to graduate from his newly earned status as viable NFL backup to unquestioned offensive leader. If he’s successful, suddenly the Panthers have a luxury: a good young quarterback who is easy on the bottom line at $400,000 a year.
The Panthers are 5-1 with Allen this season; they were 0-2 with Newton, who was clearly compromised on a physical level. There’s a saying: You can’t help the club if you’re always in the training room tub. Newton’s been there for a while, with no signs of moving away from it soon.
What’s the plan going forward? Newton’s salary cap number for the 2020 season is $21 million, which is middling among NFL quarterbacks, but the Panthers can cut him and save $19 million. That loot can address other needs, like paying running back Christian McCaffrey – the new face of the franchise – on a new contract.
Carolina has a history of working with injured stars on team-friendly deals to keep them in the fold. Remember linebacker Thomas Davis, who underwent three knee reconstructions here? He worked on his health, the Panthers showed faith and both sides won in the end. Can the same be accomplished with Newton and his camp? It’s possible, if he comes to the realization it’s better to stick with Carolina than test the open market.
The first step, though, is for Newton to return to health, which has been frustratingly slow.
“We have said all along that it is impossible to put a timetable on this injury. Nobody is more frustrated with that fact than Cam,” said Hurney, who drafted Hurney in 2011. “He’s one of the fiercest competitors I’ve been around during my 20-plus years in the League. At this time, we have decided that the best decision to reach the goal of bringing the foot back to 100 percent is to place Cam on injured reserve.”
It’s time to deal in reality. The Cam Newton that earned the league MVP trophy in 2015 and thrilled an entire league no longer exists. Injuries and time have changed the equation.
Newton will be 31 years old next season, a half-step slower and likely less devil-may-care when it comes to his personal safety. He’s never been the most accurate passer and will be asked to win in the pocket regardless of his employer.
What Newton still does well is lead. He’s also a fierce competition to the point of being an extremely poor loser. That’s valuable, but do the Panthers covet it enough to bring him back, perhaps with a reworked deal?
There’s a lot of moving pieces to consider. Newton has to get healthy in order to set the next chapter in motion. After that, it comes down to projections, dollars and cents.
And ultimately, good sense.
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