What to Expect as Cam Newton Enters Contract Year
Expect the unexpected. That's the best words of advice I can give to Panthers fans as we enter free agency, the draft, OTA's and much more.
This off-season has already seen the departures of linebacker Luke Kuechly (retirement) and tight end Greg Olsen (signed with Seahawks), along with several other defensive contributors set to test the market. Not only have the Panthers seen change in the roster, but in the coaching staff with a new head coach and two new coordinators roaming the sideline.
The Panthers quarterback extravaganza may be tiresome to some folks around the Charlotte area, so today, instead of discussing whether or not Newton will be on the roster, we take a peek at what could happen in 2020 for the franchise quarterback.
Carolina seems to be "up in the air" on whether or not they want to be a competitive team in 2020. They've made moves that would give the inclination that they are in rebuild mode, i.e. parting ways with veteran tight end Greg Olsen, shopping five-time Pro Bowler Trai Turner, and essentially letting guys like Gerald McCoy and Bruce Irvin test the free agent market. Then, they've made moves such as acquiring a Pro Bowl veteran left tackle, Russell Okung, in the Trai Turner trade, which a team that is rebuilding would not normally make. They would typically ask for draft picks in return, not a Super Bowl winning offensive tackle. To go with that, they have publicly stated that they will move forward with Cam Newton. It's become a guessing game as to what approach the Panthers are really going after here.
Over the last couple of seasons, Newton has battled numerous injuries and missed 14 games in 2019. Since his MVP season in 2015, Newton has seen a decline in production across the board. Touchdowns, yards, completion percentage all going down, turnovers going up. Every quarterback will have a few "off" seasons where they just don't produce as they normally would, but with injuries and age (31) factored in, Newton needs to show his worth in 2020.
Newton is set to become an unrestricted free agent in 2021 and with all of the change, a potential rebuild on the horizon and uncertainty surrounding his future with the organization, Newton may feel like it's time to move on after this upcoming season.
If that happens to be the case, Newton needs to ball out in 2020. Heck, even if he wants to remain in Carolina long-term, he has to show that he is not trending downward and also show some durability. A lot of this will be dependent on whether the offensive line improves or if they continue to have pass protection issues. Last year, the Panthers allowed well over three sacks per game. That's not going to win you a lot of games and it sure as heck isn't going to keep your quarterback healthy.
Despite many counting the Panthers out for the NFC South divisional crown, a healthy Cam Newton changes all of that. Players in their final year of a contract is typically when they turn it into high gear as they realize the importance of showing out with a new pay day just around the corner. It's a “what have you done lately for me” type of league, so Newton's next deal will certainly be based off of what he does in 2020.
With a healthy D.J. Moore, a solid left tackle in Russell Okung and Christian McCaffrey back to break more records, this Panthers offense should be much better than expected. Newton will not have to take as many hits in the pocket and will have potentially the best running back to his arsenal. Newton has seemed focused this off-season with rehabbing his injury and fine-tuning his game, as you can see in several workout videos on Instagram.
While many expect Newton to either suit up for another team in 2020 or to not produce at a high level, I believe that he could have his best season since 2015. Will it be nearly as good? Very unlikely, but in a contract year, one should expect to see Newton do all he can to prove his value.
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