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CHARLOTTE, NC - JANUARY 03: Cam Newton #1 of the Carolina Panthers takes the field against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Bank of America Stadium on January 3, 2016 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

The Carolina Panthers hit fans with unexpected news when they posted that they gave Cam Newton permission to seek a trade.

If I recall correctly, this is the first time the Panthers have posted (either on Instagram or Twitter) about the unknown situation of QB1. I’ll be honest, it was a gut-punch when I saw the first post by the Panthers about Cam’s future in Carolina involved him seeking a trade. Shortly after posting this news on social media, Cam Newton responded.

Cam Newton called out the team that drafted him 9 years ago. He claims that the team is making it look like he wants to leave, which according to Cam has never been the case. Former Panthers tight end Greg Olsen was in a similar situation a few weeks ago when the Panthers claimed that Greg Olsen and the team “have mutually agreed to part ways.” Greg Olsen said in an interview shortly after that it was not mutual and he made it clear to the Carolina Panthers organization that he wanted to stay, but the Panthers made it clear that Olsen was not going to be involved in the team’s future.

How did we get here? 

The quarterback situation in Carolina has been one of the hot topics in the NFL this season. Cam Newton missed the last two games of the 2018 season after taking a bad hit to the shoulder weeks earlier. Newton missed the final 14 games for the Panthers last season after suffering a Lisfranc injury that still has a question mark surrounding it.

The lack of commitment shown by the front office to their franchise QB is making this pill so hard to swallow for me, and I’m sure many other Panthers fans. Owner David Tepper came to Charlotte and started ruling with an iron fist. Something that this organization needed. Tepper gave Ron Rivera a chance to prove himself and win, he didn’t. David Tepper fired Ron and the coaching search began. Tepper spun the wheel and it landed on Matt Rhule who is the new head coach for the Carolina Panthers-a team that finished last in the NFC South in 2019. With a new head coach and offensive coordinator in Matt Rhule and Joe Brady a feeling of euphoria and excitement fell over me. I was so ready to see Cam Newton, a quarterback with so much up his sleeve, let loose and play his game in a system that on paper seems to be a better design for him as a player. But with today’s news it looks like that feeling of euphoria and excitement is leaving with Cam Newton.

Cam Newton in Carolina

Cam Newton was the first pick in the 2011 NFL Draft. He had just won the Heisman Trophy and a National Championship for Auburn University. Newton has thrown for 29,041 yards, 182 touchdowns and 108 interceptions. Newton is a physical anomaly. At 30 years old, Cam Newton stands 6 foot 5 inches tall and weighs 245 pounds (nearly all muscle). Now add the speed of an NFL running back to his athleticism, size and arm strength. That combination is what makes Cam Newton so special.

Throughout his “rushing” career Cam Newton averaged 7.5 yards a carry on 934 total attempts. He has 4,800 career rushing yards (most by a QB with a single franchise) and 58 touchdowns (NFL record). When the Panthers got within two yards of the endzone it was already known that they were going to score. Either Cam Newton would use his strength to jump over 10 250+ pound men and dunk the ball in the endzone, or he would just cause the entire defense to crash down on him opening up space for literally any of his teammates on the offense. This is another thing that makes Cam Newton so dangerous. He would control defenses. If you cover downfield then you give the best running quarterback in NFL history space to break your ankles and tear you apart. But if you stack the box and shadow Newton, it will give people like Ted Ginn, Steve Smith, DJ Moore and Greg Olsen time and space to get behind the defense and make a big play.

Cam Newton’s impact wasn’t solely felt on the field. Cam Newton created lifelong Panthers fans when he started handing out every touchdown ball to young fans sitting on the front row. It became a staple for Carolina Panther football. Once the Panthers were driving and got within 30 yards of the endzone you’d see a flock of young boys and girls running to the front railing, praying and hoping they would be the lucky fan Cam Newton gives the ball and bracelet to.

He brought energy. He brought love. He brought leadership. When Graham Gano hit a 63-yard field goal as time expired to beat the New York Giants in 2018, Cam was the first one jumping on him. When Cam fakes a QB sneak and pitches it out to Run CMC who leisurely runs into the endzone for 6 points, Cam is the first player running around the sidelines enjoying the celebratory moment with the fans.

Newton’s smile and #1 jersey will surely be missed on the Panthers sideline.

The future of the Carolina Panthers…

With the departure of Cam Newton seeming only one tweet away from being real, it’s time for the Carolinas to accept the new reality- Teddy Bridegwater.

Bridgewater plans on signing a 3-year, $20 million per year contract with the Carolina Panthers. The deal can’t be made until the new league year officially starts on Wednesday.

Bridgewater’s career derailed and was almost ended after suffering a knee injury in 2016. After rehab, Bridgewater signed a back-up role with the New Orleans Saints. When Brees injured the thumb on his throwing hand, Teddy’s number was called and he did not disappoint. Bridgewater went 5-0 last season in Brees’ absence.

One thing I like about Bridgewater is he signed a deal as a back up. He just wanted a shot to prove what he can do and when the time came he performed. Going into free agency, and after going 5-0, everyone knew Bridgewater would be a big and wanted name on the market. I just didn’t think the Panthers would drop Cam Newton for him.

Cam Newton was set to have a total cap hit of $21.1 million this season. For context, that is less than Ryan Tannehill, Jared Goff and Kirk Cousins.

As  a starting QB, Bridgewater is 22-12, including last year’s 5-0 run with the Saints. Bridgewater has the 7th best win percentage among QBs with at least 30 starts since 2014 (Bridgewater’s rookie season) per ESPN Stats & Info. Bridgewater has earned this deal. I just didn’t think this deal would involve the Carolina Panthers (at least we can be thankful that it wasn’t Taysom Hill). I like Teddy Bridgewater. I thought he was good in Minnesota and he showed his talent again in New Orleans. I just find it peculiar that an owner (David Tepper) would come out and say that the main issue with Cam is his health, and then sign a quarterback with a more gruesome injury history.

I am not saying that Bridgewater’s injury almost 4 years ago should prevent him from being signed, but using a player’s injury history as a factor to re-sign them or not and then signing another QB with a nastier injury is just odd to me.

Another argument I heard regarding the benefits of releasing or trading Cam is that the Panthers would save $19-20 million. If you look at what some quarterbacks are getting paid now, having Cam Newton on your roster and him only costing around $20 million is a STEAL!

What’s next for Cam Newton?

There are plenty of teams looking for a fresh start with a new QB. It looks like Philip Rivers plans on signing with the Indianapolis Colts and Tom Brady just announced via Instagram this morning that he is not returning to New England. Some teams looking for a new quarterback are the Los Angeles Chargers, New England Patriots, Miami Dolphin, Tampa Bay Bucs, Chicago Bears and a few others.

My prediction: the next time we see Cam Newton in a football uniform it’ll be with the New England Patriots. Cam Newton is the only quarterback whose been in the league for 5 or more years that Tom Brady and Bill Belichick are winless against.

Cam Newton is 2-0 against that duo during the regular season. The first of these games was the amazing, nail-biter of a Monday Night Football contest my junior year of high school. On November 18, 2013, the Carolina Panthers defeated the New England Patriots at home on national television 24-20. Cam Newton went 19-28 for 209 yards, 3 touchdowns and no turnovers. He also ran for 62 yards, averaging almost 9 yards a run, including this one:

Cam Newton dances circles around Patriots on MNF in 2013

Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton escapes a sack and avoids pressure to make an incredible 14-yard scramble to the New England Patriots' 49-yard line.

The second and final time Cam played New England in the regular season the Panthers were victorious 33-30. In Foxborough, Cam completed 22 of his 29 passes for 316 yards, 3 touchdowns and one interception. He rushed 8 times for 44 yards and a rushing touchdown.

After both games Patriots head coach Bill Belichick said how great of a talent Newton was and that he would like the opportunity to coach him. With Tom Brady leaving and Cam Newton seeking a trade, it only seems right that one of the most talented ( I said talented, not best) quarterbacks in NFL history unites with one of the best coaches in NFL history.

Cam Newton, thank you for all you have done for the Carolina Panthers and the city of Charlotte. You have nothing left to prove. Before this past season you only missed 4 starts out of 128. Half of that was due to a car accident in 2014. As Panthers fans we hate to see you go, but we can’t wait to see what you’ll accomplish with a fresh-new beginning. We know what you’re capable of. We see you grinding in the gym trying to get back to MVP-form. I think you still have it in you, and I can’t wait for you to unleash it all next season.

Thank you, QB1.