Earlier in the week, Panthers coach Matt Rhule said that the team would “obviously explore any and all options” at the quarterback position in wake of Sam Darnold’s shoulder injury. He was asked about signing Cam Newton at the time but was mum on the matter.
“I won’t get into any hypotheticals, I’ll probably just talk about the guys on the roster,” Rhule said. “But our job is to try to win, so we’re going to evaluate and talk to whatever we think is possibly out there. But in terms of specific comments, I’d just talk about our team.”
However, it appears that the team was considering a reunion with Newton after all. And now, it has come to fruition.
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The Charlotte Observer reported that Newton was scheduled to meet with Rhule, owner David Tepper and vice president of football operations Steve Drummond on Thursday.NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported that there is a “real interest” in signing Newton with Darnold out 4-6 weeks as a result of a shoulder injury.
And just after noontime on the east coast, the Panthers announced that Newton would return to the team that drafted him No. 1 overall in 2011.
The Panthers were only carrying two quarterbacks — Darnold and P.J. Walker — before Darnold got hurt. Carolina proceeded to sign veteran Matt Barkley to add depth to the quarterback room but still had just two healthy quarterbacks before signing Newton. And the Walker-Barkley combination has combined to make just eight career starts.
Newton has plenty of starting experience. He has appeared in 140 career games with 139 starts. That includes 124 during his 125 games played during his time with the Panthers.
While Newton has struggled to stay healthy in recent years, but he ran for 592 yards and 12 TDs while starting 15 games for the Patriots last year. His passing numbers weren’t great, but he still posted a respectable 7-8 record.
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Will Cam Newton start for the Panthers?
Newton probably won’t start for the Panthers right away. P.J. Walker would almost certainly get the first crack at it in Darnold’s absence.
Walker, a former XFL star who played under Rhule at Temple, has completed just 49.3 percent of his career passes for 401 yards, a touchdown and five interceptions, so he is far from proven. But there’s a reason that Carolina chose to role with him as the top backup this season. They believe in his upside.
That said, the Panthers could look for a proven starter to replace Walker if his accuracy issues continue, and Newton has the requisite experience needed to fill that role. He will probably be ahead of Barkley in the pecking order as a top backup considering that he has a higher ceiling than Barkley.
Projected Panthers QB depth chart if Newton signs
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Is Cam Newton vaccinated?
This is another important question. Newton wasn’t vaccinated during his time with the Patriots, and that was reportedly one of the sticking points that led to his surprising preseason release.
However, since then, Newton has been vaccinated. And as Rapoport details, that could allow him to be ready for game action quickly if the Panthers sign him.
Cam Newton is now vaccinated, so if Carolina signs him — and considering the meeting today there is real interest — he could join the team and practice quickly. They play the Cardinals this week but Ron Rivera’s Washington Football Team next week.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) November 11, 2021
So, don’t be surprised if Newton ends up being active soon after signing. He may need a little time to learn Rhule’s system, but so will Barkley. If Newton shows better than him in practice, that could be enough to make him the top backup.