Cam Newton

NFC Notes: Wagner, Newton, Zeke

We learned yesterday that the Seahawks and linebacker Bobby Wagner may not have held serious discussions regarding a new contract just yet, and we speculated that if Wagner pushes for a top-of-the-market deal (i.e. $17MM per season), he may be playing elsewhere in 2020. And as Tom Pelissero of the NFL Network tweets, Wagner will indeed be looking to meet or exceed C.J. Mosley‘s new contract with the Jets, and he will not be taking a hometown discount. If that’s the case, it will be difficult for Seattle to retain him.

Now for more from the NFC:

  • Good news for Panthers fans. Per David Newton of ESPN.com, Carolina quarterback Cam Newton says his rehab from shoulder surgery is going “unbelievable,” and he hopes to be throwing before training camp. Newton, who turns 30 on Saturday, still doesn’t have a timetable for when he’ll be cleared, but everything is trending upwards so far.
  • The Cowboys may be preparing for life after Ezekiel Elliott, but Albert Breer of SI.com believes it would be a mistake for Dallas to move on anytime soon. He notes that the Cowboys are built to rely on Elliott, and if they ink him to a big-money deal now, they could spare themselves lengthy and potentially contentious negotiations, and they could still cut ties later on in the contract — once the guaranteed money is gone — if Elliott’s abilities start to fade.
  • The Packers claimed wide receiver Jawill Davis off waivers from the Giants earlier today, and Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel writes that Davis will compete for a return specialist role. Davis appeared in seven games for Big Blue last season, returning 12 punts and seven kickoffs. He also caught four passes for 40 yards.
  • We wrote earlier today that the Buccaneers may be preparing to cut Gerald McCoy.

NFC Notes: Rosen, Kittle, Newton

Amidst a deluge of trade speculation concerning second-year QB Josh Rosen, the Cardinals opted against making Rosen available to the media last week. But Rosen himself spoke to SI.TV (video link) about his uncertain status with the club, and while he did not disparage Arizona, he certainly sounded frustrated. He said, “I definitely understand the situation. I mean, it’s annoying but, like, it is what it is. Football’s a business, and I definitely respect the higher-ups and their decisions. . . . Whatever decisions are made, it’s my duty to prove them right if they keep me, and prove them wrong if they ship me off” (h/t Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk).

Now for more from around the NFC:

  • Regardless of who the Cardinals‘ QB is in 2019, RB David Johnson will be getting a ton of touches, both in terms of carries and as a receiver. Johnson said (via Bob McManaman of the Arizona Republic), “[m]y role this upcoming season, from talking to the coaches, is that I’m going to hopefully get the ball a little bit more.” New head coach Kliff Kingsbury recently said he will build his offense around Johnson, who will be asked to earn every penny of the big-money extension he inked last September. Assuming he can remain healthy, Johnson should be able to tally at least 1,800 all-purpose yards.
  • 49ers tight end George Kittle posted a whopping 1,377 receiving yards last year, and as Matt Barrows of The Athletic (subscription required) writes, Kittle recorded 797 of those yards while injured. Barrows reports that Kittle suffered fractured cartilage in his rib cage early in the team’s Week 9 win over the Raiders, and that he wore two large rib protectors for the rest of the season. It sounds as if Kittle is (or will be) fully-recovered, and he is prepared to build on his monster 2018 campaign.
  • Panthers head coach Ron Rivera said QB Cam Newton has gotten a lot of his range of motion back, and while Newton hasn’t resumed throwing yet, that time is coming (via Jourdan Rodrigue of the Charlotte Observer). However, Rivera stopped shy of giving a timetable for Newton’s return.
  • As Rodrigue writes, the Panthers have been taking a look at this year’s collegiate passers, which has sparked some concern about Newton’s status. But Rivera and GM Marty Hurney downplayed the meaning of their QB scouting, and Rivera said, “I don’t think we’ve spent any more time on quarterbacks (this year) than we have in the past.” Rodrigue says the club remains optimistic about Newton’s progress, and while the Panthers could select a quarterback if the right player falls to them, they are not going to reach for one, and they are going to keep their focus on reviving the pass rush and bolstering the O-line.
  • Yesterday, Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones confirmed that the club will be exercising Ezekiel Elliott‘s fifth-year option, and as Josh Alper of Pro Football Talk writes, Jones also said that he will “obviously” be looking for a strong backup for Elliott. Rod Smith was the team’s No. 2 RB last year, but he is still a free agent, and it sounds as though Dallas wants an upgrade. The Cowboys are unlikely to invest a high-level draft choice on an RB given that Elliott will get the lion’s share of the touches, but a quality Day 3 prospect could be in the mix.

Extra Points: Quarterbacks, Newton, Vince Young

This NFL offseason should have one of the busiest quarterback carousels in recent memory. This April’s draft class is widely regarded as being light on day one starters, and as such at least a handful of teams will be in the market for veteran starters. Vets like Joe Flacco, Ryan Tannehill, and Nick Foles will all be on new teams whether through trades or free agency. Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports took the time to break down the quarterback situation for nearly every team in the league, examining the situation of every team that will be in the market for either a new starter or a new backup.

The whole piece is worth a read, and among the most notable predictions is Foles landing with the Jaguars. La Canfora writes that “it is clear the Jags are clinging to winning now”, and he thinks they’ll pursue either Foles or Flacco. He also projects Kyler Murray to the Dolphins, Dwayne Haskins to the Giants, and Ryan Fitzpatrick to the Packers as insurance given Aaron Rodgers‘ recent injury history.

Here’s more from around the league, with an eye on the offseason:

  • Speaking of quarterbacks, the Panthers are apparently quite optimistic about Cam Newton‘s recovery from his latest shoulder surgery, according to Tom Pelissero of NFL Network (Twitter link). We heard earlier that the team was hoping Newton would be ready for training camp, but that they’d take it easy with him this Spring. Pelissero now reports that the team believes he could even be well enough recovered to participate in some capacity in Carolina’s OTA sessions in a few months. Pelissero also clarified that there was no structural damage to Newton’s shoulder, and that the Panthers believe the issues that prevented him from pushing the ball deep down the field should now be completely gone next season.
  • Get enough quarterbacks news yet? Well, former NFL quarterback and number three overall pick Vince Young was arrested earlier this week and charged with driving while impaired, according to TMZ.com. Young was also hit with a DUI back in 2016. The former Texas star last was on an NFL roster when he spent two weeks with the Browns during the offseason in 2014. In 2017 he mad a comeback in the CFL, but tore a hamstring in training camp and never appeared in a game.
  • In case you missed it, the Cardinals signed former Falcons cornerback Robert Alford to a three-year deal in a pre-free agency signing.

NFC Notes: Wilson, Foles, Newton, Rams

We heard in early January that the Seahawks would begin contract negotiations with star QB Russell Wilson “soon,” but Adam Schefter of ESPN.com writes that the two sides have yet to have a single contract discussion. Wilson is under club control through the 2019 season and is set to earn $17MM next year, and he has previously stated he would be willing to play out the final year of his deal and perhaps go year-to-year under the franchise tag. But as Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times observes, the fact that Wilson and the Seahawks have not talked contract yet does not mean much (Twitter link). He says the team will get through other team-building matters first and then start exploring extensions, just as it did when it came time to explore a new deal with Wilson in 2015.

Now for more from the NFC:

  • We know that the Eagles want to trade Nick Foles, and yesterday we explored (again) how such a trade is likely to come about. While player and club would like to work “in concert” in determining Foles’ next team, ESPN’s Chris Mortensen (via Eliot Shorr-Parks of 94 WIP) says the Eagles are going to try to keep Foles out of the NFC East — the Redskins and Giants could be in the market — and would prefer to deal him to an AFC team. Meanwhile, Sheil Kapadia of The Athletic believes it only make sense for the Eagles to franchise Foles if they already have a trade in place, and that the recent chatter concerning the franchise tag is merely a bluff at this point.
  • Schefter confirms a report from earlier this week that Panthers QB Cam Newton, who underwent arthroscopic shoulder surgery last week, is expected to be ready in time for training camp and certainly will be good to go when the regular season rolls around.
  • Ian Rapoport of NFL.com says that the Rams, who signed running back C.J. Anderson in December, “absolutely” want to re-sign Anderson this offseason. That makes sense considering how good Anderson has been in his brief tenure with the club, and considering Todd Gurley‘s history of knee problems. Anderson, though, could be in line for a bigger role or salary than what Los Angeles is prepared to give. Anderson is expected to get plenty of work in tonight’s Super Bowl.
  • Rams QB coach Zac Taylor will be formally announced as the Bengals’ next head coach tomorrow, and Rapoport tweets that LA may move senior offensive assistant Jedd Fisch to QB coach. The club could also give current TE coach/passing game coordinator Shane Waldron the passing game coordinator title without requiring him to coach a position and bring in Wes Phillips to coach the tight ends.
  • As expected, the Buccaneers will transition to a 3-4, one-gap defense under new defensive coordinator Todd Bowles, per Jenna Laine of ESPN.com. Laine looks at how the Bucs could deploy their current personnel to mirror Wade Phillips‘ success in transitioning two 4-3 defenses to 3-4 schemes.

Cam Newton Expected To Be Ready For Training Camp

New Panthers owner David Tepper sparked panic among the team’s fanbase when he compared Cam Newton‘s shoulder situation to Andrew Luck‘s, and seemed to hint that Newton could miss the entire 2019 season. Less than a week later, it was announced that Newton underwent another shoulder surgery.

That only increased the uncertainty surrounding his status, but Panthers fans got some good news today. Newton is recovering well, and the Panthers’ coaching staff is “optimistic that Newton will fully rehabilitated by training camp”, according to Jourdan Rodrigue of the Charlotte Observer. Rodrigue had head coach Ron Rivera speaking on the record, and he sounded fairly confident that Newton isn’t in any danger of missing any regular season time.

Ian Rapoport of NFL Network followed up with a tweet pointing out that the “surgery was not to his rotator cuff like last year’s was”, so it wasn’t necessarily an aggravation of the previous injury. In Rodrigue’s piece, which is worth a read, Rivera details how Newton was dealing with crippling pain the second half of the season that significantly limited his range of motion in his arm and hurt his accuracy.

It doesn’t sound like a Luck situation is going to play out, and while Rodrigue notes that the team plans to take it easy with Newton this spring, we should see him at close to full speed this summer. Rivera said Newton has already shown “marked improvement” and that “he has gotten a lot of range of motion back.” The Panthers started the year 6-2, but everything went downhill when Newton popped up on the injury report with his shoulder issue. The team went 1-7 the rest of the way, and Newton was shut down for the final two games of the season.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Panthers Notes: Newton, Hostler, Obada

Cam Newton underwent arthroscopic surgery on his right shoulder on Thursday, the Panthers announced. While Carolina did say Newton will immediately begin his rehabilitation process, the team did not provide a timeline for his recovery. However, Mike Garafolo of NFL.com (Twitter link) hears the signal-caller’s procedure was not of the “major reconstructive” variety, while Albert Breer of TheMMQB.com tweets the operation was relatively minor. Indeed, Newton is expected to resume throwing by the time organized team activities begin in May, per Breer.

Here’s more from Carolina:

  • The Panthers — who currently run a 4-3 defense — may implement more 3-4 looks in 2019, according to Joseph Person of The Athletic. While it doesn’t appear Carolina will make a full-fledged change to a 3-4 front, the club does plan on deploying multiple defensive schemes. Dontari Poe would become a natural nose tackle (a role he played in Kansas City), while Luke Kuechly and Shaq Thompson would handle middle linebacker. The real issue, however, would be finding edge rushers that could fit into a 3-4 scheme. The Panthers’ potential shift isn’t necessarily being driven by change in personnel or coaching, as defensive coordinator Eric Washington is remaining in place while head coach Ron Rivera will continue to call defensive plays.
  • Former Packers passing game coordinator Jim Hostler has been hired as the Panthers’ new wide receivers coach, the club recently announced. Hostler, 52, is a long-time NFL coach with experience dating back to 2000. He spent only one season in Green Bay working with the team’s offense, and wasn’t retained when the Packers hired new head coach Matt LaFleur. Hostler, who is replacing Lance Taylor on Carolina’s staff, will work with a wideout group that currently includes D.J. Moore, Torrey Smith, Curtis Samuel, and Jarius Wright (plus pending free agent Devin Funchess).
  • Defensive end Efe Obada‘s one year-deal with the Panthers is worth $570K, tweets David Newton of ESPN.com. The minimum salary for a player with one year of NFL experience (like Obada) will be $555K in 2019, so Carolina is giving the 27-year-old a slight pay bump. Obada was scheduled to become an exclusive rights free agent, meaning he wouldn’t have hit the open market unless the Panthers opted to non-tender him.

Panthers Owner Discusses Cam Newton Injury

There have been whispers that Cam Newton could sit out the 2019 campaign as he recovers from a sore right shoulder. While Panthers owner David Tepper didn’t explicitly say that the Panthers franchise quarterback could miss the upcoming campaign, he did explain how that scenario could end up being a positive. Tepper specifically compared the situation to Colts quarterback Andrew Luck, who missed the entire 2017 campaign before coming back for a productive 2018 season.

“If you told me he took a year off and could recover and be fully recovered and everything else, and that’s what it took, an extra year, why wouldn’t you do [that]?” Tepper told ESPN’s David Newton. “Now we would have to do other things, right? We’d have to go out and get another quarterback. If you could find me some more cap space I’d appreciate that.”

Through 14 games in 2018, Newton completed a career-high 67.9-percent of his passes for 3,395 yards, 24 touchdowns, and 13 interceptions. He also ran for another 488 yards and four scores. With strength in his shoulder fading, the Panthers decided to shut down Newton for the final two games of the season.

Tepper, who purchase the franchise for more than $2B back in May, recognizes that it would ultimately be in the organization’s best interest if Newton is at full health.

“When you make a decision, this gets into business, or here … you want to keep your options open as much as possible,” Tepper said. “And you want to put yourself in a position to win. Not a position to lose, but a position to win…That means keep your options open and try to have as much [cap] space as you possibly can.

“Hopefully, Cam’s shoulder is fantastic, right? And we’re hunky dory, all fantastic. If it’s not, you may need more cap space. You may need to go out and find somebody. If you don’t, you guys are going to be writing what a dope we are here. Why did we make these other moves? So think about that. You want to keep your options open, put yourself in best position as you can to win, and I’m talking again for the long term.”

Newton detailed several ways the Panthers could open up cap space this winter, noting that they could clear $7.2MM by releasing offensive lineman Matt Kalil and another $3.5MM by releasing cornerback Captain Munnerlyn.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Latest On Panthers’ Quarterbacks

It sounds like Cam Newton will be able to avoid offseason shoulder surgery. NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport reports that the Panthers quarterback doesn’t have any structural damage to his throwing shoulder (Twitter link). This means Newton won’t have to undergo surgery (or deal with the accompanying rehab) during the offseason.

While Newton only recently acknowledged his shoulder injury, Rapoport says the quarterback had been dealing with pain through the second half of the season. This clearly had an impact on his production; over his past three games, Newton threw only two touchdowns vs. six interceptions (he had thrown seven interceptions in his team’s previous 11 games). The Panthers decided to shut down their franchise quarterback, allowing Taylor Heinicke to take over as the starter.

Unfortunately, the former undrafted free agent out of Old Dominion also suffered an injury during yesterday’s loss to the Falcons. Head coach Ron Rivera said Heinicke will undergo an MRI on his elbow today (via ESPN’s David Newton on Twitter). The quarterback was briefly knocked out of yesterday’s game after suffering an elbow injury, but he returned and managed to finish the game. He ended up completing 33 of his 53 pass attempts for 274 yards, one touchdown, and three interceptions. He also added 33 rushing yards.

If Heinicke is unable to go during the team’s season finale against the Saints, Kyle Allen would likely earn the starting nod. The rookie quarterback had a brief cameo during yesterday’s contest, completing all four of his passes for 38 yards. Newton notes that activating Newton “doesn’t sound like an option.” Joe Person of The Athletic tweets that the team could also consider adding signal-caller Garrett Gilbert, who was cut by the team prior to the regular season.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Extra Points: Wentz, Gurley, Newton, Draft

Cam Newton will not play in the Panthersfinal two games, and Monday night was the tipping point. The eighth-year quarterback complained of shoulder pain in the fourth quarter of recent games, but Albert Breer of SI.com notes Newton was dealing with soreness in the third stanza of Carolina’s 12-9 loss to New Orleans. This, and the short week going into the Panthers’ Sunday game, prompted Ron Rivera and Marty Hurney to bring the idea of shutting the starter down to owner David Tepper. The rookie owner concurred with the coach and GM and then informed Newton of the plan, Breer adds. It’s unclear if Newton is dealing with anything beyond shoulder soreness, but he has not looked the same for weeks. And a national audience observed the former MVP’s throwing issues Monday.

Newton underwent shoulder surgery last year, sidelining him for much of the offseason. Two years remain on the 29-year-old QB’s contract, and how he recovers from this latest shoulder problem may determine the timetable the Panthers set for discussing another extension.

Here’s the latest from around the league going into Week 16:

  • Carson Wentz is set to join Newton in ending his season early, with back trouble shelving the Eagles‘ franchise passer. This, however, is not the first back issue Wentz has dealt with in his career. Wentz discovered a stress fracture in his back during his redshirt year at North Dakota State, Tim McManus of ESPN.com reports. This injury, suffered prior to his North Dakota State tenure, healed fairly soon and is not related to his current setback, per McManus. Still, this may be something for the Eagles to monitor as they determine how to proceed with Nick Foles or a possible replacement backup this coming offseason.
  • On the subject of NFC injuries, Todd Gurley has yet to resume running after he experienced knee inflammation, Lindsey Thiry of ESPN.com notes. The fourth-year Rams running back returned to Sunday’s game but has not practiced this week. He does not plan to do so the rest of this week but does expect to play against the Cardinals. With the Rams facing two bottom-end teams during the final two weeks of this season (the Cards and 49ers), and being effectively down two games to the Saints in the home-field advantage race, it would not be a surprise if Sean McVay rested Gurley until the playoffs. McVay rested Gurley and other starters in Week 17 of last season, even though the Rams were not locked into a seed. The Rams, who have not held a first-round bye since 2003, are one game up on the Bears for this year’s No. 2 seed.
  • Ohio State running back Mike Weber has taken a backseat to J.K. Dobbins during the past two seasons, but the first of the Buckeyes’ post-Ezekiel Elliott starters will declare for the 2019 draft. A redshirt junior, Weber announced his decision on Twitter. Weber finished his career with 2,580 yards, 5.9 per carry, and 24 rushing touchdowns. He did not make much of an impact in the passing game but may be a mid-round prospect come April.
  • The Lions worked out quarterback Joe Callahan and hosted three CFL tryouts — for wide receivers Bryant Mitchell, D’haquille Williams and Jordan WilliamsLambert — on Thursday, NFL reporter Howard Balzer tweets.
  • With reserve/futures decisions for non-playoff teams due soon (the first day such deals can be agreed to is New Year’s Eve), the Browns also worked out a CFL-to-NFL hopeful. Linebacker Sam Eguavoen auditioned for the Browns on Thursday, per Balzer (on Twitter).

Panthers To Sit Cam Newton

The Panthers are effectively out of the playoffs and they’re opting to protect their starting quarterback with two games to go. Cam Newton and his sore shoulder will head to the bench and Taylor Heinicke will take over as the starter for the rest of the year, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter).

Technically, the Panthers have a path to the postseason, but it would require a whole lot of favorable breaks in addition to two more wins. As the New York Times playoff tree shows, Carolina would need to win out and gain the cooperation of at least five other outcomes in order to even have a chance at extending their season. With less than a 1% chance of that happening, the Panthers will not risk the health of their franchise quarterback.

Newton, 29, captured the league’s MVP trophy in 2015 and led the Panthers to a Super Bowl 50 appearance. Since then, Newton and the Panthers have not been able to find the same level of success. The 2018 season was up-and-down for Newton & Co., even though the QB will finish out with a career high 67.9% completion percentage.

The Panthers inked Newton to a five-year, $103.8MM extension in the summer of 2015, so it only makes sense for them to protect their investment. Newton is set to count for a $23.2MM cap figure next year and a $21.1MM figure in 2020. However, next year will be a pivotal year for Newton and his future in Carolina. The Panthers can escape the final year of his deal with just $2MM in dead money, so finances would not prevent them from a reboot under center.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.