One week, Cam Newton was eating cereal. The next, he was suiting up for the Carolina Panthers again. Screams of “I’m back!” dominated the headlines. However, the early returns might have been fool’s gold. NBC Sports’ Peter King recently predicted the veteran quarterback’s future with the organization beyond the 2021 NFL season.
Cam Newton has struggled since his homecoming debut
When the Carolina Panthers placed Sam Darnold on injured reserve with a shoulder injury, they knew P.J. Walker couldn’t be the only option at quarterback. The front office decided to bring back an old friend in Cam Newton.
Newton has a short week to prepare for the Arizona Cardinals. With Matt Rhule taking over for Ron Rivera, the veteran quarterback needed to learn a new system.
The former MVP made the most of his opportunities in limited action against Arizona. He notched both a passing and rushing touchdown on nine offensive snaps.
Newton followed it up in Week 11, completing 21 of 27 passes for 189 yards and two touchdowns. He also added a rushing touchdown. Still, his efforts weren’t enough to beat the Washington Football Team.
Things have since gone downhill for the Panthers’ signal-caller. Newton struggled mightily in Carolina’s most recent game against the Miami Dolphins. He completed just 5 of 21 pass attempts for 92 yards, zero touchdowns, and two interceptions.
Matt Rhule benched Newton for his performance and inserted P.J. Walker into the lineup, but it was too late. The Dolphins rolled the Panthers 33-10.
There’s a good chance Rhule gives Cam Newton another shot coming off the bye week, but the honeymoon’s over.
Peter King believes the Panthers move on from the veteran QB after 2021
The Carolina Panthers decided to bring Cam Newton back to town after not ending on the best of terms in 2019. His return excited fans about a potential late-season playoff push. However, the team has lost two straight and is trending in the wrong direction.
NFL insider Peter King recently was a guest on The Rich Eisen Show. He revealed he believes the Panthers will likely move on from Newton after the 2021 season.
“You look at every coach who is struggling right now, and there is a universal truth,” said King. “They don’t have a quarterback. They can dress it up any way they want to in Carolina in the last five weeks. Do you really have hope that at the end of that period, that David Tepper and Matt Rhule will have a meeting and say, ‘Cam’s our guy going forward’?”
King isn’t buying that the Newton signing was anything more than a short-term play.
“That was a $6 million scotch tape job til the end of the year,” he added. “They’re going to go out and spend more money and try to fix it one more time. Every team knows that it will never win without getting a quarterback in the future.”
Carolina signed Cam Newton to a one-year contract, which includes $4.5 million guaranteed and a $1.5 million roster bonus. If “Superman” were leading the Panthers to wins, perhaps the front office would be willing to extend. However, that hasn’t been the case so far.
Newton is 32 years old, and while he undoubtedly still has talent, it’s clear he’s no longer what he once was for this franchise.
Neither Newton nor Sam Darnold are the long-term answer
The Panthers’ front office will have a dilemma on its hands at the end of the 2021 season. The future of the quarterback position in Carolina is quite cloudy.
The team traded for Sam Darnold after the 2020 season, rescuing him from the shackles of the New York Jets. The fresh start seemed to work wonders for the former No. 1 overall pick through the first few weeks.
The Panthers got out to a surprising 3-0 start with Darnold under center. The USC product looked much more comfortable than he had in his tenure with the Jets. He made plays with his arm and legs. His impressive play didn’t last long, though.
Darnold threw just four touchdowns from Week 4 to Week 9. On the flip side, he tossed 10 interceptions. Long before his injury, he wasn’t playing good football.
While Darnold was fool’s gold, Cam Newton doesn’t appear to be the long-term answer, either. Peter King’s point about winning teams and their quarterbacks is legitimate. The Panthers will obviously need to address this issue in the offseason.
Carolina has pieces in place to be competitive in the NFC, given its skill players and high-upside defense. Matt Rhule’s squad looked solid early on, but shaky quarterback play has held the Panthers back.
General manager Scott Fitterer cannot afford to squander the talent he has at his disposal. If Cam Newton can’t get it done, the front office should not hesitate to fix its biggest problem.