With the regular season nearly over, time is drawing near for the Carolina Panthers to make a decision about quarterback Cam Newton and his future with the franchise. The former first overall pick from 2011 stated that Charlotte is his home during a recent Thanksgiving Jam event in which he donated 1,500 meals to underprivileged youth, so he seems to want a return in 2020.
Of course, the question is whether or not the Panthers want to keep Newton around for the final season of his contract. He will be a free agent following the 2020 season, but the team could save some money in the immediate future by parting ways with him prior to the new league year.
The conversation about Newton and his future in Carolina can't be simply boiled down to whether or not he is worth the sizable salary. There are multiple factors in play, including his playmaking ability, the performance of backup Kyle Allen, the status of the head coach, and the current offensive makeup. If a new coach comes to town, will he want to move forward with Newton or bring in his own hand-picked player?
Deciding whether or not to keep Newton will not be easy, and there are multiple reasons to support each side of the argument. So what will be the determining factor?
(Photo Credit: Jeff Siner/Charlotte Observer/Tribune News Service via Getty)
As he proved in 2015, there are not many quarterbacks in the NFL that have a higher ceiling than the man called Super-Cam. Newton has been extremely effective as both a runner and a passer and he even led his team to a Super Bowl appearance. Even while dealing with a rotating cast of supporting talent, Newton has remained productive and kept his team in contention for a playoff spot.
There is a stark difference in the league between quarterbacks who can elevate the receivers and those who can't. Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady have long been viewed as signal-callers that can take any player and turn them into a 1,000-yard receiver. Newton has the same ability and has found success despite dealing with previous players (Kelvin Benjamin, Ed Dickson, Devin Funchess) that struggled with drops.
There are precious few quarterbacks in the NFL that can be trusted to make a play whenever needed. Russell Wilson of the Seattle Seahawks has certainly developed a reputation for having this X-factor. When the play is broken down, he will somehow find a way to escape pressure from the defense and throw a perfect 70-yard touchdown on the run.
Newton, on the other hand, has a different X-factor in that he can change a game's tone with a key run when the situation seems dire. There have been countless times when the Panthers needed a big play to spark the offense, and they used Newton's legs to achieve that goal. Not many other quarterbacks can do the same.
Congrats to Cam Newton, your 2015 NFL MVP! Dab on 'em, Cam! pic.twitter.com/ZYJEMzLWzW— Sporting News (@sportingnews) February 7, 2016
One detail that gets lost in the Cam Newton discussion is that he is only 30 years old. He has only been in the league since the 2011 season, but there are many that believe he is near the end of his career. Yes, injuries have played a role in this conversation, but Newton could potentially have many years left with which to find success. Would the Panthers want to risk letting him go to another team?
The other aspect to consider in this age discussion is that the late 20s and early 30s are considered the prime of a quarterback's career. This is the time when they pair considerable talent with veteran experience and truly take their play to another level. Matt Ryan of the Atlanta Falcons won league MVP when he was 31 years old after hearing criticism about his play in previous years. Newton already won the award once, but Ryan has put together three of his best seasons after turning 30.
“Cam Newton owes his season, and maybe the rest of his career, to our guy Norv Turner.”@AdamSchein believed Turner would improve the Panthers’ offense, but he had no idea Newton and Carolina would be THIS good. #T2S pic.twitter.com/ihao5Vg0M7— CBS Sports Network (@CBSSportsNet) November 8, 2018
Throughout the early portions of Newton's career, there were often discussions about how he isn't an "accurate" passer. With the Panthers' QB posting completion percentages in the 50s in most of his seasons as a starter, there were doubters about offensive coordinator Norv Turner and his ability to boost that number into the high 60s.
However, Newton was very effective in an injury-shortened 2018 campaign. He posted the best percentages of his career, finishing with 67.9 on the year. His previous best was a mere 61.7. If Newton is able to return to full health and pair with Turner again, there is a scenario in which he continues boosting his completion percentage and finds even more success in this offense.
Parting ways with Cam Newton is one option for the Carolina Panthers following the season, but it will hinge upon the play of backup-turned-starter Kyle Allen. The second-year signal-caller has shown flashes of promise throughout the year, but he has also mixed in some crucial mistakes. The four-interception game against the Atlanta Falcons is the perfect example.
That being said, Allen has since rebounded from that performance by throwing three touchdowns without an interception during a hard-fought loss to the New Orleans Saints. This boosted his numbers to 13 touchdowns and nine interceptions on the season. Allen hasn't been perfect, but he has shown growth in his first season as a starter. The Panthers could feel very comfortable forging ahead with him in lieu of Newton, especially if he continues improving.
"It's over. ... Cam Newton is going to be owed $21M next year. I don't think the Panthers are willing to pay that for a player who has dealt with 2 consecutive shoulder surgeries and now dealing with this Lisfranc injury." — @ChrisCanty99 pic.twitter.com/DPvY6iurJ1— First Things First (@FTFonFS1) November 6, 2019
Given his physical style of play that involves taking punishing hits from defenders, there are concerns about Newton suffering yet another injury. He has dealt with multiple ailments throughout his career, including a back fracture, two shoulder injuries, and a foot injury. If the Panthers keep him on the roster, will he remain healthy for the future, or will the team be forced to rely on a backup yet again?
At this point, Allen is a far healthier option than Newton and plays a safer style of football. He isn't running headlong into 280-pound defenders, and he isn't trying to do a front flip into the end zone. Instead, Allen is doing what is asked while avoiding big hits.
One concern about Cam Newton's future with the Carolina Panthers is that he is owed a lot of money in 2020. He will be playing out the final season of his five-year, $103,800,000 contract that included $60 million in guaranteed loot. In 2020 alone, he will be earning roughly $19.1 million.
At this point, there are questions about this amount of money and whether or not Newton is worth the cost. The Panthers could save some cash by parting ways with him, and they could take that money and use it to bolster other areas of the roster. Fixing the offensive line and finding more receivers is one priority, and there are other players that will need contract extensions. Christian McCaffrey, in particular, will be in line for a major payday after an MVP-level start to his career.