Cam Newton Expected to Receive Clearance for Football Activity Next Month
Jason B. Hirschhorn
While Tom Brady's potential interest in leaving the New England Patriots has garnered most of the attention this offseason, other star quarterbacks could become available and wind up with the Los Angeles Chargers. That includes former NFL MVP Cam Newton, who missed most of last year with a Lisfranc injury in his left foot and might no longer remain in the Carolina Panthers' plans.
According to The Athletic's Jourdan Rodrigue, the Panthers expect Newton to pass a physical and receive clearance for football activity next month.
Even if Newton receives clearance to return to full team activities, that doesn't preclude the Panthers from moving on from him. The team hired a new coaching staff this offseason led by head coach Matt Rhule and offensive coordinator Joe Brady. The new regime might want to put their imprint on Carolina with a different player behind center. With Newton entering the final year of his contract, a trade or release would create only $2 million in dead money and create $19.1 million in additional cap space.
And while Newton remains adamant that he will return healthy in 2020, Panthers ownership has yet to fully embrace the prospect of him starting for the team this upcoming season.
"I said it a million times, 'Is he healthy?'" owner David Tepper said last week of Newton. "He's not a doctor. So, there's' a lot of different things that can happen. But first is, is he healthy? Tell me that and then we can talk."
For the Chargers, who have a void at quarterback following the departure of longtime starter Philip Rivers, Newton could hold plenty of intrigue. While he likely cannot dominate games physically as he did during his 2015 peak, he remains mobile and able to threaten defenses in ways the more statuesque Rivers didn't. Given head coach Anthony Lynn's apparent preference for a signal-caller with running ability and the bevy of talented skill-position players in Los Angeles, Newton could slide into the offense and perform at a high level if healthy.
Of course, Newton would cost the Chargers an asset in a trade, something the front office must weigh against signing a free-agent quarterback or acquiring one in the 2020 NFL Draft. Other factors such as a possible extension could come into play as well.
But until the Panthers announce that Newton will indeed play for them in 2020, the discussion about the Chargers or another team making a play for the veteran signal-caller will continue to pick up momentum.
-- Jason B. Hirschhorn is an award-winning sports journalist and Pro Football Writers of America member. Follow him on Twitter: @by_JBH