By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — After Sam Darnold suffered an injury, the Carolina Panthers were left without a quarterback. They’re now calling upon an old friend to fill the void.
The team re-signed veteran quarterback Cam Newton on Thursday.
“He’s back,” the news story on Panthers.com read.
Boogie’s Back 🕺 pic.twitter.com/1m6OX56FDl
— Carolina Panthers (@Panthers) November 11, 2021
The agreement is pending a physical.
Cam Newton's deal with the #Panthers is for the rest of the 2021 season, I'm told. A chance to reset his career, then hit free agency in March.
— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) November 11, 2021
Earlier on Thursday, multiple reports indicated that Newton was meeting with Panthers head coach Matt Rhule, team owner David Tepper, and VP of football operations Steven Drummond on Thursday. One report indicated that the team expected a deal could be reached by the afternoon. It ended up being an accurate assessment.
The team was clearly in need of a quarterback to run the offense after Darnold was diagnosed with a fractured scapula. That injury will cost Darnold four to six weeks, and Darnold (seven touchdowns, NFL-leading 11 interceptions) wasn’t exactly thriving prior to suffering the injury anyway. (The Panthers traded a second-round pick, a fourth-round pick, and a sixth-round pick to the Jets to acquire Darnold from the Jets.)
Newton, 32, has been out of work since the Patriots released him at the end of the preseason this summer.
The fact that the Panthers went to Newton shows a lot of humility on the part of the team — and particularly Tepper. The owner purchased the team in 2018, and he signed off on the release of Newton — the former No. 1 overall pick and the face of the Panthers’ franchise for nine years — just two years into his ownership. (Tepper also fired head coach Ron Rivera, the coach of nine years, during the 2019 season.)
The Panthers got mediocre quarterback play from Teddy Bridgewater last year, leading to the trade to acquire Darnold, who’s given them subpar quarterbacking this year.
Newton’s one season in New England, of course, was not exceptional, evidenced by his eight passing touchdowns and 10 interceptions. But he was working within a talent-depleted offense, and he was exceptional as a runner, rushing for 592 yards and 12 touchdowns on 137 carries while staying healthy all year long. He also caught two passes, one of which went for the first receiving touchdown of his career.
The Panthers have D.J. Moore and Robby Anderson atop their receiving depth chart, and with a do-everything back like Christian McCaffrey in the backfield, a dual threat player like Newton can open up numerous options for offensive coordinator Joe Brady.
Prior to signing Newton, the Panthers only had P.J. Walker and the recently added Matt Barkley at QB. Walker was great in the XFL, but he’s been terrible in the NFL (49.3 percent completion rate, 1 TD, 5 INTs). Barkley is a career backup with seven starts — and five losses — under his belt, along with 11 touchdown passes and 22 interceptions.
After a 3-0 start, the Panthers have gone 1-5 since the start of October. Despite that 4-5 record, they’re still just a half-game out of the final wild card spot in the NFC. With some winnable games — vs. Washington, at Miami — preceding their Week 13 bye, the Panthers could stay alive in that playoff race. They’re clearly hoping Cam Newton will help earn those victories.