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With Panthers flailing and fans losing faith, Cam Newton signing was 'good move,' sportswriter says

 Cam Newton signs with the Carolina Panthers on Thursday.
Chanelle Smith-Walker
Carolina Panthers
Cam Newton signs with the Carolina Panthers on Thursday.

Quarterback Cam Newton is back with the Carolina Panthers. The Panthers announced his signing Thursday to a contract that reportedly pays him a guaranteed $6 million and could be worth up to $10 million. It comes as the Panthers quarterback position has been struggling and now they are suddenly depleted at the position with an injury to starter Sam Darnold.

Joining WFAE's "All Things Considered" host Gwendolyn Glenn is Charlotte Observer sports reporter Langston Wertz Jr., who has been urging the Panthers to sign Newton.

Gwendolyn Glenn: Langston, thanks for joining us. So, your thoughts?

Wertz: I think it was a good move for the Panthers definitely in the short term. I mean, you saw the last couple of games. Fans are losing faith. Walking out of the stands. If you look at social media, they're really down on Darnold. And people are talking about is Matt Rhule's seat getting a little warm, is David Tepper getting a little panicky?

I think bringing Newton in definitely brings some fan interest for the next couple of weeks. And hopefully he can come in and play well. He was playing well for New England in the preseason. He played well last year until he got sick with COVID. So if he can recover all that form, maybe the Panthers can have a turnaround.

Glenn: And just to remind people, Newton was cut by the Panthers after the hiring of coach Matt Rhule two seasons ago. Is there any bad blood from that decision?

Wertz: I don't think any more after today (if) you're going to pay me $6 million to sign my name on a piece of paper. But I think there was probably a little bit of bad blood when he left. I'm sure he wanted to go out on his own terms. He probably felt like he wasn't allowed to do that. But you know, again, all that's in the past right now. They're bringing Cam home. The team put out a nice thing on social media, "We're bringing him home." And I think, you know, a lot of fans are excited. A lot of fans don't like Cam. You know, he was very divisive when he was here, but I think he's probably the best quarterback they get at this time.

Glenn: So when do you think he could start and do you know anything about whether he's passed the physical?

Wertz: I don't think he can start this week, Gwen, because he's coming in Friday. That's normally a light day. And Saturday is definitely just a walk-through getting ready for Sunday. The Cardinals are 8-1. I don't think this is a good situation to put him in on. But following this, Gwen, they're playing Washington, which is 2-6, Miami's 2-7, Atlanta's 4-4. So there's a nice little run of games. You know, if the Panthers lose on Sunday as I expect them to, they'll be 4-6. But say they go on a three-game winning streak, you're right back in the playoff hunt.

Glenn: Well, the Panthers have lost five of their last six games, and last Sunday was particularly an ugly loss. Did the Panthers need to do this from a business perspective to get fans interested in the rest of the season?

Wertz: They had to do something, Gwen. I mean, even if Sam Darnold was healthy,he was just not playing well. He was playing really, really poorly. One of the two or three worst quarterbacks in the league. They were going to have to bring in a quarterback. Signing Matt Barkley from the Titans' practice squad didn't move the needle. And I don't think too many people were excited about P.J. Walker being a starter for a month. And I think bringing in Cam in the short term, as I said, is probably the best thing you can do. And if he comes in and plays well, as he probably thinks he can, you solve your problem at quarterback. If not, you go shopping in the offseason.

Glenn: Well, Cam was cut by the New England Patriots before the season started. What are the risks with this signing? Are there any? And questions about how much he has left? I know you love Cam, so what do you think?

Wertz: Well, you know, it's funny because, you know, he was cut from the Patriots, but I think that had more to do with the vaccination status. (Newton has said he has since been vaccinated for COVID-19). He was a starter up until he missed a week of practice before the most important preseason game, and then he lost his job. I don't think he probably was really cool about, Hey, Cam, you're going to come off the bench behind Mac Jones." I don't know if that was necessarily the conversation, but there was definitely some misunderstandings.

The risk of signing him now? You know, he may not work out. You know, he may come here and fall on his face. And it would be kind of an ugly closing to what was an ugly closing. Are there any questions about how much he has left? Sure. There's always going to be questions about a quarterback who has not played a full season since he's had some injuries. But again, looking back a couple of years ago when he was in his first season with New England, he was really good. We all remember the Sunday night game against Seattle. And he was playing well with not a lot of help around him until he got sick with COVID. Then he came back and was not very good. And then he looked good in preseason. So I think Cam was going to do well. I really do.

Glenn: Well, what about the offense, the offense for the Panthers? They have not been doing well. Is he going to have the protection he needs?

Wertz: No, he's not. He kind of understands the offensive line here in Carolina is not good. And that's the one thing that could hurt him is that he doesn't get protected and he gets hit a lot and he struggles. That's definitely something you have to watch. That may not necessarily be his fault, but if he looks bad and everybody points fingers.

But, you know, Cam has 22 (Christian McCaffrey) back, and I think that's important. He has good receiving corps, probably the best receiving corps he's never had. So if they can figure out how to protect him, maybe roll him out a little bit more than normal, maybe it could work out. But I think Cam Newton is definitely a huge upgrade over anybody we have in our quarterback room, including the guy they had starting at the beginning of the season.

Glenn: Well, what about long term? Do you expect Cam to stay with the Panthers past this season?

Wertz: Gwen, that really depends on what happens for the rest of the season. If Cam comes in and plays well and they get close to or make the playoffs, it's going to make them have some questions in the offseason. That also says he remains healthy for the remainder of the season. If not, I fully expect the Panthers to go quarterback shopping, and I think Deshaun Watson will be part of that target if they do so.

Glenn: As always, thanks Langston.

Wertz: Absolutely.

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