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Cam Newton signs with Panthers: Why former MVP is returning to Carolina for a second act

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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 was considering a reunion with Newton after all. And now, it has come to fruition.

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The Charlotte Observer reported that Newton was scheduled to meet with Rhule, owner David Tepper and vice president of football operations Steve Drummond on Thursday.NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported that there is a “real interest” in signing Newton with Darnold out 4-6 weeks as a result of a shoulder injury.

And just after noontime on the east coast, the Panthers announced that Newton would return to the team that drafted him No. 1 overall in 2011.

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 still had just two healthy quarterbacks before signing Newton. 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?

Will Cam Newton start for the Panthers?

At first, it seemed like the Panthers were bringing in Newton as a backup quarterback. After all, they had P.J. Walker in reserve and had kept just two quarterbacks for most of the season.

However, the Panthers are giving Newton up to $10 million to play the rest of the season. That indicates that he will probably serve as the starter henceforth.

The only question is whether Newton will be able to learn Rhule’s system quickly enough to start in Week 10 against the cardinals. If he can’t, Walker would get a crack at starting.

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. That’s part of why the Panthers opted to sign Newton to leapfrog him on the depth chart.

Newton has the requisite experience needed to be a stopgap starter, so expect him to be the No. 1 option sooner rather than later. Meanwhile, Walker will probably be ahead of Barkley in the pecking order as a top backup, as he has more experience in Rhule’s system than any other quarterback on the roster.

Panthers QB depth chart

Rank Player
1 Cam Newton
2 P.J. Walker
3 Matt Barkley

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.

So, don’t be surprised if Newton ends up being active soon after 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.

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