Cam Newton deserved better than this.
The nine-year Carolina Panthers quarterback’s time in Charlotte was dead in the water in week two of the 2019 regular season when he hobbled off the field for his second major injury in as many years.
But his exit from the franchise could have, and should have, been handled a lot better than it was this week.
The series of events happened quickly, easily missed if you spent a few hours away from your phone on Tuesday. The news broke around 11 a.m. that the Panthers had officially “given Newton permission to seek a trade.” At 12:30 p.m., it was announced Carolina had signed New Orleans backup and former first-round pick Teddy Bridgewater to a three-year, $63 million contract.
Just like that, the face of the franchise changed. That isn’t Bridgewater’s role yet. Christian McCaffrey took that throne this season with jaw-dropping numbers. But Newton is out, which is a seismic shift.
I understand the Panthers’ position. They hyped up Cam’s trade value all offseason while also grappling with his injured status. I believe the hope was to entice a trade and then sign the free agent of their choice. Except, I don’t think anyone offered anything in trade. Newton’s injury history is scary, and his completion percentage has never been stellar.
I want to note here that I believe Newton would improve any franchise he signs on with next. His accuracy troubles aside, he brings strength, leadership and marketability no matter where he goes.
So, no one called for a trade for Newton. I can understand that. They wanted to move quickly on Bridgewater, I can understand that. But they knew they wanted Bridgewater before Tuesday, and they could have looped Newton in and possibly released him outright when legal tampering began this week.
Instead, the organization went the “find your own way home” route, wishing the quarterback the best of luck in finding a trade while the new starter moves in without hesitation.
It’s a tough business, the NFL. No one is safe, no one is non-expendable. But faces of a franchise deserve better than what Newton received. Unanticipated exits by veteran signal-callers are common – think Joe Flacco with the Baltimore Ravens – but the best exits are the purposeful ones. They are outright, straightforward and properly communicated.
Newton’s exit from the Panthers was anything but, and that’s not deserving of the franchise’s most accomplished signal-caller.
(Send comments or questions to email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @zacknally)