What Cam Newton’s return means for the Carolina Panthers moving forward

Panthers (26): As prodigal son Cam Newton prepares to reclaim QB1 status in Carolina, you have to wonder if injured Sam Darnold -- he's guaranteed nearly $19 million in 2022 -- is already entering the backup phase of a career that doesn't yet span four seasons. Syndication Usa Today

The Carolina Panthers have brought back Cam Newton to supplement their push to the postseason. In his second stint, Newton has already uplifted the team, leading them to a dominant week ten victory over Arizona. Results like this ought to make one wonder why Carolina ever decided to part ways with Cam to begin with. After all, the Panthers hadn’t seen any success since he left in 2019.

Regardless, his return reapplies questions we asked at the time and brings about a new set to top it. These ideas pertain to Cam Newton’s future in the NFL and the Carolina Panthers’ plans for next season and beyond. With these things in mind, this article maps out the team’s current situation and surveys what Cam Newton coming back means for them moving forward.

The playoff push

After a 3-0 start, people started to buy into the hype surrounding the new faces leading the Panthers franchise. Unfortunately, they tapered off after that, losing five of their next six games. We can chalk that up to Christain McCaffrey’s injuries and Sam Darnold’s inconsistencies. In the minds of others, it merely boils down to the team not being very good.

Regardless of whether or not that’s true, it doesn’t change that Carolina is in contention. That said, with Sam Darnold out to injury, Carolina practically had no choice but to re-enter the QB market. Now at 5-6 after their last game, they stand just a half-game back of the final wild-card spot in the NFC.

A return to the postseason gives the organization confirmation that they’re going in the right direction. Moreover, it can breed new life for Cam Newton as a starting quarterback.

Cam Newton: Something to prove

The last time we saw Cam Newton, he’d come off a career-worst campaign in 2020. In what became his only season in New England, Newton tossed only eight touchdowns to ten interceptions. While you can attribute his struggles to his re-adjustment to a new offense and his brief bout with COVID-19, the optics certainly didn’t lean in his favor.

Additionally, he hadn’t exactly looked all that great before arriving in Foxborough in the first place. Due mainly to a combination of injuries and physical decline, Newton’s performance left far more to be desired. Having kept that trend last year, it confirmed in some people’s minds that he couldn’t go anymore.

However, we caught a glimpse of what may still be a solid quarterback in the last two weeks. Cam Newton himself seemed just as excited as anyone about his return.

What he shows in the next few games will ultimately dictate what the next phase of his career entails (if anything at all).

Carolina Panthers: Re-exploring options

Even if Cam can propel the team to the postseason, our questions about his durability and consistency remain. When the Panthers parted ways with him in 2019, they intended to bring in a fresh face to lead the franchise forward. That’s is what they were hoping to get out of Sam Darnold this year, but the bad outweighed the good in that regard.

That said, the search for a franchise quarterback has proven difficult this go around for Carolina. And unfortunately for them, a straightforward solution doesn’t seem near insight. The 2022 draft lacks a wealth of top QB prospects, and the market for current NFL quarterbacks doesn’t exactly lean in their favor.

Aaron Rodgers will enter free agency this offseason, but his preferences lie about the West coast. The team reportedly attempted to make a play for Deshaun Watson and even showed a willingness to move Christian McCaffrey to acquire him. But unfortunately, he leaned more favorably on Miami. After that, aside from a potential parting between Russell Wilson and the Seattle Seahawks, their options seem very limited.

Depending on how their season ends, bringing Cam back next year could become a viable option, but they should keep an eye out for something new.

What’s next for everyone?

If I’m predicting here, It’s a safe bet to say that Carolina will be in search of a new starting quarterback this offseason. While Cam Newton could take them to the playoffs this year, they parted with him years ago to bring in someone who would raise their ceiling. That objective hasn’t changed. That said, we can confidently assume that the Panthers will look to offload Sam Darnold. As for who should come in as their new starter, that remains unclear for apparent reasons.

As mentioned in a previous article, I believe the likely route for Cam Newton entails a backup role. However, a standout performance could lead to him securing a brief starting stint in another QB-hungry market, potentially staying in Carolina for another season. A lot of this will depend on how the dominoes fall in other places across the NFL.

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