Cam Newton has missed most of the season due to a foot injury, but Panthers owner David Tepper feels positive about the quarterback's future.
Rumors have swirled over whether Carolina will trade Newton, who will be a free agent in 2021. When asked by the MMQB's Albert Breer if Newton's future will be determined by the team's next head coach, Tepper said that depends on the QB's health.
"Cam's future is going to largely be up to how good he feels," Tepper said. "That's first. It's actually an interesting question to me when there's a lot of speculation on this because there should be no speculation on Cam one way or the other. If Cam's healthy, he's an elite player. So we all hope Cam's healthy. And people will use an elite player because there just aren’t that many elite players in the league.
"There's a lot of good players, but less elite players. I still think he has the potential to be an elite player—he's not that old—if he's healthy. If he's not healthy, that's a different thing."
Tepper went on to define the word: "If he's healthy, and healthy would be how he moves and how he runs and all the rest of it, you'll use him like every other player you have to the best of his ability to try and have a winning program."
The NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reported on Sunday that the Panthers would trade Newton during the offseason if they receive a "large deal."
Newton, who hasn't played since Week 2, underwent successful surgery on Monday on his left foot for a Lisfranc injury he suffered during the preseason. He is resting in Atlanta, his hometown, and will start the recovery process, which can take anywhere from six-eight weeks or longer.
The Panthers have gone 5–6 since Newton's departure and the team fired coach Ron Rivera in early December. Last season, Newton's shoulder injury contributed to Carolina losing seven straight games after starting the year at 6–2.
Newton, who has been Carolina's starting quarterback since 2011, is owed $18.6 million in 2020. He is 68–55–1 in his career, leading the Panthers to the playoffs four times. Carolina reached Super Bowl 50 in February 2015 before losing to the Broncos.