When will Cam Newton return?

Mike Florio

We last saw Panthers quarterback Cam Newton in Week Two, against the Buccaneers. As the Panthers engage in the rematch against Tampa Bay in London, it’s fair to ask whether we’ll ever see Newton with the Panthers again.

He’s still recovering from a foot injury, and the team is 3-0 without him. He’s not in London, and he hasn’t attended any of the games played in his absence.

On one hand, they want to keep Cam off his injured foot. On the other hand, he can sit on the bench and help Kyle Allen, sharing his views on what the defenses are doing, how the offense is operating, what he sees via the images on the Microsoft Surface tablet.

But Cam is instead out of sight, and he could end up being out of mind — especially if the Panthers keep racking up wins without him. NFL Network’s Willie McGinest suggested during the pregame show that this is now Allen’s team, and that Newton won’t be back next year.

As hot takes go, this one is far from scalding; it felt like an up-or-out year for Cam from the get go, given that he’s under contract only through 2020. After 2019, the Panthers need to decide whether to extend Cam or to move on, with a lame duck year likely not feasible for anyone. Newton will make $18.6 million in the final year of his second deal, so maybe the contract is tradeable. Or maybe they’ll just have to cut him loose.

This isn’t a question of skill when healthy. It’s a question of when will he be healthy and can he stay healthy? Just as the shoulder was supposedly back to 100 percent, Newton suffered a foot sprain. And the constant angst regarding whether the Panthers are using him enough as a runner or too much or just enough is something they simply don’t have to worry about with Allen, who can just run the offense, with heavy reliance on running back Christian McCaffrey.

Given that the top of the quarterback market will pass $40 million by next year, the Panthers could choose to keep Cam around, ride him while he’s healthy, and switch to Allen if need be. But they’ll also need to pay McCaffrey in 2020, given that he’ll undoubtedly (and rightfully) stay away until he gets the financial security he deserves, before the tread flies off his tires.

The real question for Cam is whether the tread is already gone. It very well may be, which sets the stage for a significant decision in early 2020 — especially if the foot injury keeps Newton away from the team for the balance of 2019.