Monday’s leak that the Panthers expect quarterback Cam Newton to pass a physical in March is less about Newton playing for the Panthers than it is about the Panthers possibly trading him to someone else.
From Carolina’s perspective, Newton getting healthy in March is meaningless, if they play to keep him. The offseason program doesn’t begin until April; it doesn’t matter if he’s healthy in March.
It does matter if he’s healthy in March, however, if the Panthers hope to trade him at the start of the league year. And it does matter that the team leaked that they expect Newton to pass a physical in March, in order to send a message to any and all interested teams that Newton is available.
Teams currently are making their plans when if comes to the coming crop of free-agent quarterbacks. Those teams need to know that Newton is in play. Monday’s leak does just that.
Thus, teams that will be looking for quarterbacks now need to be looking at Newton. Of course, it won’t be easy or cheap to pull it off. First, the Panthers will want compensation for the final year of Newton’s contract. Second, Newton likely will (or at least should) want a new contract, given that he’s due to make a mere $19.1 million in salary and workout bonus in 2020. Third, it’s unclear how healthy Newton is, and how long he’ll stay healthy if/when he gets there.
Just a week ago, Panthers owner David Tepper played the “I’m not a doctor” card when addressing Newton’s health, ignoring the reality that Tepper is rich enough to buy the opinion of any and all doctors on the Eastern Seaboard. The more likely reality is that the Panthers, with new owner and new coach, would like to move on. Newton, who has seen the only NFL head coach he’s ever known move on, may want the same thing.
To the extent that the Panthers have become fatigued by concerns regarding Newton’s health, a team that becomes infatuated by his talent may be willing to roll the dice. The question then becomes the cost of the roll, if Newton indeed pushes for a new deal as part of a trade.
In this regard, Newton has plenty of leverage. Wherever he is, he needs to fully buy in. That may not be in Carolina, and it may not be with any other team that doesn’t want to put his pay in line with other elite quarterbacks.
If healthy, Newton clearly remains an elite quarterback. And a team like the Chargers should be doing whatever it has to do to make his their starter as they open a new stadium with the Rams. Then there are the Patriots, who could end up looking for a new quarterback — and who are 0-2 against Newton.
However it plays out, it’s starting to feel like Newton will be out of Charlotte. Monday’s leak seems to be nothing more than an effort to subtly hammer a “For Sale” sign into the ground outside Bank of America Stadium.