Cam on IR: What's It Mean and What's Next?
Five big questions regarding Carolina's move to shut down Cam Newton:
What is injured reserve?
Injured Reserve are slots on a roster that can be used for players unable to play due to injury for at least six weeks and must remain inactive for at least eight weeks. In the case of Cam Newton, his eventual return from injury would either come to late in the season to make a serious impact or hinder a possible playoff run arranged by Kyle Allen. And he would be filling a spot on the roster that can be awarded to a healthy player.
What's it mean in the short term?
Shutting him down for the year will halt the steady stream of questions regarding Newton's place on the quarterback foodchain if/when he returns this season. That talk pretty much began the moment after Allen led the Panthers to its 38-20 win at the Cardinals in Week 3. So eliminate that distraction as the team moves forward for 2019.
What's it mean in the long term?
What will continue to loom is Newton's future with Carolina. Newton will turn 31 in May and his contract expires after the 2020 season. But while he was durable during the first few years of his career and not too far removed from his 2015 MVP season, the past two campaigns have ended early due to injury. Ridding themselves of Newton -- via either a trade or straight-up release -- would alleviate the Panthers of some serious salary cap baggage. Carolina would take only a $2 million hit in dead money while creating a cap cushion of more than $19 million. So that question will linger for months.
Is this the beginning of something more?
Indeed this could be the start of a bigger transformation of a franchise that has experienced so much over the past five years. Consider that since 2014, the Panthers have experienced:
- A public relations nightmare with Greg Hardy that saw the defensive end become a pariah because of a terrible domestic assault case;
- Newton making headlines for flipping his truck on a Charlotte street;
- A fractured locker room before and after the release of fan-favorite and team legend Steve Smith;
- A shot at a perfect regular season fall just short and an NFL Championship that ended in a lopsided defeat to Denver in Super Bowl 50;
- A change at the top with the ouster of the only owner the team has known under the most unexpected of circumstances. Jerry Richardson, the man who gave birth to pro football in the Carolinas, was forced to sell his stake in the team after allegations of sexual harassment in the workplace and directing a racial slur toward an employee. In his place came David Tepper, a hedge fund founder who bought the team for more than $2.2 billion. And that signaled more than just a change in ownership -- it ushered in a generational shift from the old guard to new stewards.
What's next could mean Tepper -- now in his second year as owner -- making wholesale changes in the offseason, from the front office to the coaching staff.
What could be next for Newton?
Of course, there's the possibility that Newton returns to the Panthers in 2020. Still the likelihood of him moving on has the attention of NFL fans outside of the Carolinas. He might be older and coming off of injury, but the thought of having a version of Newton that even resembles his former self has other fanbases salivating. The hopeful range from the Bears as they seem to be ending the Mitch Trubisky Experiment to the Bengals as the Andy Dalton Era begins to wind down.