Earlier in the week, Panthers coach Matt Rhule said that the team would “obviously explore any and all options” at the quarterback position in wake of Sam Darnold’s shoulder injury. He was asked about signing Cam Newton at the time but was mum on the matter.
“I won’t get into any hypotheticals, I’ll probably just talk about the guys on the roster,” Rhule said. “But our job is to try to win, so we’re going to evaluate and talk to whatever we think is possibly out there. But in terms of specific comments, I’d just talk about our team.”
However, it appears that the team is considering a reunion with Newton after all.
WEEK 10 NFL PICKS: Against the spread | Straight up
According to The Charlotte Observer, Newton is scheduled to meet with Rhule, owner David Tepper and vice president of football operations Steve Drummond on Thursday. The team is in need of some quarterback depth with Darnold out 4-6 weeks as a result of a shoulder injury.
NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reports that there is a “real interest” in signing Newton, so they well could sign him to bolster their quarterback room.
The Panthers were only carrying two quarterbacks — Darnold and P.J. Walker — before Darnold got hurt. Carolina proceeded to sign veteran Matt Barkley to add depth to the quarterback room, but they still have just two healthy quarterbacks. And the Walker-Barkley combination has combined to make just eight career starts.
Newton has plenty of starting experience. He has appeared in 140 career games with 139 starts. That includes 124 during his 125 games played during his time with the Panthers.
While Newton has struggled to stay healthy in recent years, but he ran for 592 yards and 12 TDs while starting 15 games for the Patriots last year. His passing numbers weren’t great, but he still posted a respectable 7-8 record.
MORE: Why did the Patriots release Cam Newton?
Would Cam Newton start for the Panthers?
Newton probably wouldn’t start for the Panthers right away. P.J. Walker would almost certainly get the first crack at it in Darnold’s absence.
Walker, a former XFL star who played under Rhule at Temple, has completed just 49.3 percent of his career passes for 401 yards, a touchdown and five interceptions, so he is far from proven. But there’s a reason that Carolina chose to role with him as the top backup this season. They believe in his upside.
That said, the Panthers could look for a proven starter to replace Walker if his accuracy issues continue, and Newton has the requisite experience needed to fill that role. He would probably be ahead of Barkley in the pecking order as a top backup considering that he has a higher ceiling than Barkley.
Projected Panthers QB depth chart if Newton signs
RIVERA: Bill Belichick explains decision to release Cam Newton
Is Cam Newton vaccinated?
This is another important question. Newton wasn’t vaccinated during his time with the Patriots, and that was reportedly one of the sticking points that led to his surprising preseason release.
However, since then, Newton has been vaccinated. And as Rapoport details, that could allow him to be ready for game action quickly if the Panthers sign him.
Cam Newton is now vaccinated, so if Carolina signs him — and considering the meeting today there is real interest — he could join the team and practice quickly. They play the Cardinals this week but Ron Rivera’s Washington Football Team next week.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) November 11, 2021
So, don’t be surprised if Newton ends up being active soon after any potential signing. He may need a little time to learn Rhule’s system, but so will Barkley. If Newton shows better than him in practice, that could be enough to make him the top backup.