The Panthers’ 2019 regular season has finally reached its merciful conclusion. Now Carolina must decide what they want to do with Cam Newton.
Panthers’ owner David Tepper is hard at work evaluating potential coaches for his franchise in 2020, but the truth is that isn’t the biggest call his franchise faces this offseason. The choice of what to do with quarterback Cam Newton is a much bigger choice for the franchise.
Sunday’s 42-10 loss to the Saints didn’t shed any meaningful light on what the Panthers might do. Rookie quarterback Will Grier did nothing to establish himself as a contender for next year’s starting job before exiting the game due to injury. The former West Virginia signal-caller has a better chance of being cut before next season begins than he does grabbing hold of the starting job.
Kyle Allen looked like he could seize control of the Carolina offense earlier this season, but his poor finish to the campaign has clouded his future signficantly. The Panthers will probably look to bring him back with a new contract, but at best, it will be as an insurance policy. Allen’s future ceiling looks to be a backup for a team with legitimate playoff hopes.
That leaves the Panthers with a simple, but massive choice to make before the 2020 season begins. Tepper, GM Marty Hurney, and whoever the franchise selects as their new head coach will get together to decide whether they should trust Cam Newton to come back and lead the offense next year or not. If they don’t go with Newton, it’s almost a certainty that Carolina will use a high draft pick on a quarterback in next April’s draft.
The first question the Panthers must answer about Newton is whether or not he can be trusted from a medical perspective. He missed the last half of the 2018 season due to injury and issues with his foot sidelined him for almost all of the 2019 campaign. Carolina’s medical staff should have the best information on Newton’s physical healthy available to them. No one associated with the Panthers or Newton can be sure he’ll return to full health in 2020. If the Panthers don’t like his chances to survive a 16-game season they may feel obligated to jettison him to free agency.
Discussing Newton’s future without any mention of his contract status would be irresponsible. He’s slated to make in excess of $19 million next season if the Panthers elect to retain him. Carolina can cut the former Auburn star and save over $17 million on their 2020 cap sheet. In other words, they can only bring Newton back if they feel like he’ll return and play at a Pro Bowl level. Anything less makes Newton a poor investment.
The Panthers have a ton of big decisions to make this offseason, but the issue of Newton dwarfs every other call Tepper and his brain trust needs to make. It’s not an exaggeration to call it the most seismic decision in franchise history.