Cam Newton heading back to the Carolina Panthers

NFL

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Superman has returned.

Whether or not Cam Newton can save the Carolina Panthers’ sinking season remains to be seen.

The Panthers (4-5) announced they have agreed to a one-year contact with Newton, bringing him back to the franchise that drafted him No. 1 overall in 2011 — and later cut him prior to the 2020 season after losing eight straight games.

The deal is worth $10 million, including $4.5 million in fully guaranteed money and a $1.5 million roster bonus, according to a person familiar with the situation. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the team does not announce financial terms of players’ contracts.

Outside the gates of Charlotte’s Bank of America Stadium, a fan wearing Newton’s No. 1 jersey stood waiting for the QB to arrive and greeted people entering the facility with a giddy smile.

Inside the empty bowl of the stadium the team lit up the scoreboards with the words “He’s Back.”

A team spokesman confirmed to The Associated Press that Newton had arrived in Charlotte. However, it’s unclear if he would make it to the team facility in time to practice. The 32-year-old was not present during the first 20 minutes of practice that were open to the media to observe.

Newton has not played football since being released prior to the season by the New England Patriots after getting beaten out for a starting job by rookie Mac Jones.

Carolina was light on quarterbacks after an MRI on Monday revealed starter Sam Darnold would miss at least four weeks with a incomplete fracture of his shoulder blade. Panthers coach Matt Rhule said Wednesday that P.J. Walker is expected to start on Sunday against the Arizona Cardinals. Matt Barkley, signed off the Tennessee Titans practice squad, is slated to be his backup.

It’s unclear if Newton’s arrivals means a change in that depth chart — at least for this week.

Rhule said Wednesday the team would “continue to explore all options” at quarterback. When asked specifically at the time about Newton, Rhule said he “didn’t want to discuss hypotheticals” and said his focus is entirely on the players on the roster.

Newton has struggled in recent years to get back to the playing level that earned him league MVP honors in 2015, in part due to shoulder and foot injuries. Newton is 7-16 in his last 23 career starts with 20 interceptions and 17 touchdown passes. He also ran for 16 touchdowns during that span.

He spent nine seasons with the Panthers, throwing for 29,041 yards with 182 touchdown passes and 111 interceptions. He also set an NFL record for most career touchdowns rushing by a quarterback during his tenure in Carolina.

Newton’s best season came in 2015 when he combined for 45 touchdowns — 35 passing and 10 rushing — and helped the Panthers reach the Super Bowl after going 15-1 during the regular season. However, Newton struggled in Super Bowl 50 and the Panthers lost 24-10 to Von Miller, Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos. Newton was 18 of 41 for 265 yards with no touchdowns and two turnovers in that game while being sacked six times.

He also was criticized widely for his decision not to jump on a loose ball after he’d been stripped of the football.

Shortly after Rhule arrived in Carolina, Newton was unceremoniously released prior to the 2020 season in a salary cap move after losing his final eight starts for the Panthers, a move that didn’t sit well some Carolina fans.

Newton signed with the New England Patriots last season and started in 15 games. He continued to struggle throwing the football, with 10 interceptions with only eight TDs passing. He ran for 12 scores and was 7-8 as a starter.

The Panthers have struggled to find a replacement since Newton left.

They replaced him with Teddy Bridgewater, but he went 4-11 as a starter last season before being traded to the Denver Broncos for a sixth-round draft pick. The Panthers then traded for Darnold earlier this offseason, but he’s been a dud with 10 interceptions in his last six games while playing in front of a stadium with plenty of empty seats.

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