Panthers Rumors

Latest On Panthers, Cam Newton

The Panthers hold one of the top assets in this offseason’s layered quarterback market, but Cam Newton‘s place as a trade chip cannot be fully known until a clearer picture of his recovery from Lisfranc surgery emerges. But the Panthers believe that recovery is going well.

The team expects Newton to pass his physical and be cleared for some football activity by March, Jourdan Rodrigue of The Athletic reports (subscription required). This jibes with what has come out of the organization so far; the Panthers are planning to give the former MVP a chance to display his current form when he returns to football work in the spring.

While the Panthers are optimistic Newton will be ready to throw fairly soon, Newton’s status is murky. None of the David TepperMarty HurneyMatt Rhule trio has confirmed the 30-year-old passer will be a Panther in 2020. Newton believes he will, but the contract-year quarterback would obviously intrigue other teams — ones who are not on a rebuild track the Panthers may well be. Newton has, however, been at the Panthers’ facilities this offseason during his recovery process — one that has thus far pleased team brass, per Rodrigue.

Even if Newton is ready to throw by March, the Panthers may be cautious with him and delay some of his work until April or May, per Rodrigue. However, it is certainly possible Newton will not be a Panther by then. In a complex quarterback landscape, teams may need to determine a course of action on Newton soon or risk losing another potential target on the free agent or trade market. The Panthers may also consider one of this year’s first-round quarterback prospects, adding more intrigue to this situation. Newton could serve as a mid-offseason trade chip, while it’s also possible Carolina unloads him earlier before he’s fully healthy if the right offer is made.

Newton is set to make just $18.6MM this season, which would make him a manageable bridge option for Rhule’s team and drive trade interest. It should be expected Newton’s status as a Panther will be determined by the draft, but considering the former Super Bowl starter’s recent injury history, the nine-year veteran may be one of the last quarterback dominoes to fall this offseason.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Latest On Panthers, Cam Newton

Cam Newton “absolutely” expects to return to the Panthers next season. However, team sources that spoke with The Athletic’s Joe Person are less-than-certain about his odds. 

Earlier this year, owner David Tepper was non-committal when asked about the longtime franchise star. Given his health situation and the team’s move to part ways with beloved head coach Ron Rivera and tight end Greg Olsen, no one would be shocked to see Newton in a different uniform next year.

Every player that buys into this, the more they buy into this, the more things can work,” Tepper said in January. “And that’s what we’re going to need here, is buy-in from people, OK? If we can get that kind of buy in sooner rather than later, no matter what the personnel is. We will try to use our personnel to the best possible [advantage], whoever that personnel is.”

Newton is still recovering from foot surgery and waiting for the green light to resume football activities. Thanks to the lingering Lisfranc injury, the former No. 1 overall pick was limited to just two games in 2019. We’ve heard that the Panthers want to see Newton on the practice field before making a determination on his future, but there’s no telling when he’ll be ready. If he can’t prove that he’s healthy within a reasonable timeframe, the Panthers could cut him to save $19.1MM.

Newton, 31 in May, captured the MVP trophy in the 2015 season. And, in 2018, he managed to complete a career-best 67.9% of his throws. Still, it’s been a rocky couple of years for the Panthers and the team seems intent on a rebuild under new head coach Matt Rhule. The Panthers could be in range for some of this year’s top quarterbacks with the No. 7 overall pick, but they’re reportedly higher on the 2021 crop which includes Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence and Ohio State’s Justin Fields. It’s also worth nothing that LSU’s Joe Burrow will be long gone by the time they take the podium, and many expect Tua Tagovailoa to go No. 5 overall to the Dolphins.

If released, Newton would join an unusually high-profile crop of available free agent quarterbacks, a group that will include some mix of Tom Brady, Philip Rivers, and Ryan Tannehill.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

James Bradberry Eyeing Redskins?

On the cusp of his first turn through free agency, Panthers cornerback James Bradberry says he wouldn’t mind reuniting with former head coach Ron Rivera

[RELATED: Redskins Meet With Greg Olsen]

I would love to play for Coach Rivera again,” Bradberry told NBC Sports. “He’s a great man and a great coach. He coached me for four years. I didn’t realize how much he meant to us until that day [he got fired]…Just how he spoke to us as men. He wasn’t overly aggressive unless he needed to be. He put his foot down when he needed to be.”

Of course, Bradberry added that he’s looking to be paid what he’s worth. For any team that signs him, that’ll require a significant commitment – the former second-round pick has stifled some of the league’s best receivers in Carolina, setting him up for a huge payday on the open market. In other words, if there’s any “discount” to be had for Rivera & Co., it won’t be a substantial one.

Meanwhile, Bradberry says that, ideally, he’d like to re-up with the only team he’s ever known.

Dream scenario, I would love to continue my career with the Carolina Panthers,” he said. “I’ve been there for four years. One of my closest friends on the team, Shaq Thompson, he’s still there. I would love to get to finish the rest of my career alongside him.”

Thompson, a tenacious linebacker, inked a four-year, $54MM extension with the Panthers in December. That deal put him in the top five for all linebackers in the NFL, and Bradberry is also aiming for top placement at his position.

In 2019, Bradberry snagged three interceptions and registered 65 total tackles. The advanced metrics have never been too fond of his work, but Rivera is a fan, and a number of clubs will be interested in the 26-year-old (27 in August). He’s also be a logical fit from a football perspective, especially if Rivera drops another old colleague in Josh Norman.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Redskins To Hire GM After Draft

The Redskins are expected to go into the NFL Draft without a GM, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter) hears. Without a replacement lined up for Bruce Allen, Redskins VP of Player Personnel Kyle Smith will be in charge of draft operations in April.

The Redskins canned Allen on Dec. 30, after ten years at the helm. In that span, the Redskins went 62-97-1 and made the playoffs only twice.

The Redskins’ next GM likely won’t have complete control over the 53-man roster. New head coach Ron Rivera is expected to have significant sway when it comes to personnel, which could dissuade some of the league’s more experienced candidates.

Allen wasn’t the only significant front office figure to exit D.C. this offseason. In the wake of Allen’s dismissal, senior VP Eric Schaffer was expected to see an increased role. Instead, they parted ways with the cap guru after nearly two decades together.

Rapoport hears similar news for the Panthers – their assistant GM job will also be filled sometime after the draft. The Panthers made a run at hiring Andrew Berry, but the Eagles blocked them because the position did not include roster control. Ultimately, Berry became the Browns’ new GM, where he’ll have say over the 53-man roster.

Panthers Re-Sign Joey Slye

Joey Slye is set for another season in Carolina. On Thursday, the club announced a new deal with the kicker for the 2020 season. 

Slye was set to be an exclusive rights free agent this offseason, which means that he was more or less bound to the Panthers no matter what. But, with the new deal, he has a bit of early security and, perhaps, a modest pay bump over the slotted salary.

Slye wasn’t supposed to the Panthers’ kicker last season, but Graham Gano‘s sore knee forced him to the injured reserve list just before the start of the season and the Panthers had to pivot. Slye went on to connect on 25 of 32 field goals, and 31 of his 35 extra point attempts.

It was enough to get another look on a low-cost contract, but his misses won’t be automatically forgotten. In late November, for example, Slye left five points on the board against the Saints, who went on to win by three. That loss dropped the Panthers to 5-6 and more or less crushed their playoff hopes.

Gano, meanwhile, is under contract through the 2021 season. In 2020, he’s set to count for a $4.5MM cap charge.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Panthers Re-Sign DB Cole Luke

The Panthers have re-signed exclusive rights free agent CB Cole Luke to a one-year deal, the team announced. Luke finally got his first taste of regular season action last year, appearing in eight games for Carolina.

Luke, a Notre Dame product, hooked on with the Panthers as a UDFA in 2017. He spent most of his rookie season on IR with an ankle injury, and he was on he club’s practice squad for the entire 2018 campaign.

He got bumped up from the taxi squad halfway through the 2019 season, though most of his work came on special teams. He played just 15 defensive snaps against 117 special teams snaps, and he recorded two total tackles.

Still, the Panthers are in something of a transition period, and corners James Bradberry, Ross Cockrell, and Javien Elliott are all eligible for unrestricted free agency. While Carolina will almost certainly bring back Bradberry, there could be an opportunity for Luke to climb the depth chart in 2020.

Greg Olsen Would Have Considered Panthers Return

  • When Greg Olsen was released by the Panthers, it was described as a mutual parting. However, the veteran tight end said he would have been open to returning to Carolina in 2020. “I told them all along that if they wanted me back…obviously I would have been back,” the veteran said (via WFNZ-AM/FM on Twitter). “The ‘mutual parting’ might have been a little overblown. The reality was…they weren’t going to bring me back…I understood it but I didn’t force my way out of here.”

Panthers DE Wes Horton To Retire

Wes Horton will be the latest long-term Carolina cog to depart the team this offseason. The seven-year Panthers contributor announced (via Instagram) he will retire.

A Panthers defensive end for most of Ron Rivera‘s tenure, Horton cited myriad injuries as one of the reasons he will leave the game at age 30. Horton played in 83 games for the Panthers since the 2013 season.

I’ve been back and forth on my future playing football, and after coming to a conclusion, I will be stepping away from the game of football,” Horton wrote. “The little injuries I’ve accumulated over the years have finally caught up to me, and when weighing the risk, I’d rather preserve what’s left of my body.”

While Horton’s retirement will not register on the same level Luke Kuechly‘s did, his reasons are similar. Horton bounced on and off Carolina’s roster in recent years. In the past three even years, Horton operated as a full- or part-time starter. He started 15 games in 2014, 10 in 2016 and eight in 2018. The former UDFA out of USC signed with the Panthers in October 2016 and this past November. Although Horton signed with the Saints earlier in 2019, he only saw action for the Panthers in his career.

Horton will finish his career with 15.5 sacks and seven forced fumbles. He announced he will return to his high school alma mater, Notre Dame (Sherman Oaks, Calif.) to coach the school’s defensive line.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Panthers Release Greg Olsen

Feb. 3: On the first day veterans can be released, the Panthers made this move official. For the first time since coming into the league in 2007, Olsen is a free agent.

Jan. 30: Greg Olsen has not decided on returning for a 14th season or beginning a full-time broadcasting career, but he will not be part of Matt Rhule‘s first Panthers team. Olsen and the Panthers confirmed as much Thursday afternoon.

After meeting with GM Marty Hurney, Olsen said (via Twitter) he will not be part of the 2020 Panthers. The team will move on from the former Pro Bowl tight end.

It does not sound like FOX is a lock to land Olsen, who has one season left on his Panthers contract. The soon-to-be 35-year-old veteran is interested in joining another team, per Adam Schefter of ESPN.com, who adds agent Drew Rosenhaus will be communicating with other teams after the Super Bowl (Twitter link).

The team and I are both on the same page that it is best we go in different directions for now,” Olsen said. “At this time I have not closed the door on any potential career options. I still have the love of football in my heart and will explore all opportunities presented to me.”

Acquired in a trade from the Bears in 2011, the former first-round pick revitalized his career with Carolina. He made three Pro Bowls from 2014-16, serving as Cam Newton‘s top target in the immediate post-Steve Smith years. Olsen eclipsed 1,000 yards in each of those seasons but struggled with foot injuries from 2017-18. Olsen returned to play 14 games this past season, catching 52 passes for 597 yards for a Panthers team that struggled in the season’s second half and used three quarterbacks.

The Panthers releasing Olsen will free up $8.1MM in cap space, tagging the team with $3.7MM in dead money. Olsen hitting free agency would add a name to an already intriguing mix potentially set to hit the market. Hunter Henry, Austin Hooper and Eric Ebron are also free agents-to-be. And Jason Witten is now open to opportunities beyond Dallas. While Henry and Hooper are tag possibilities, this could be an interesting signing period for the tight end position.

For the Panthers, Olsen departing represents another major change for an organization that has gone through many in recent weeks. The Panthers fired Ron Rivera after eight-plus seasons, and Rhule brought in new coordinators Joe Brady and Phil Snow from the college ranks. Luke Kuechly surprised the football world by choosing to retire at 28. And Newton’s status is far from certain as he recovers from foot surgery.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.