End of an era: After 9 seasons, Panthers release QB Cam Newton

End of an era: After 9 seasons, Panthers release QB Cam Newton

CHARLOTTE — The Cam Newton era is over in Carolina, as the Panthers released the 30-year-old quarterback after nine seasons.

The move became a mere formality after the Panthers made it clear last week they were moving on from Newton by giving him permission to seek a trade and then agreeing to a three-year, $63 million contract with free agent quarterback Teddy Bridgewater about 90 minutes later.

On Monday night, Newton posted on his Instagram account that he was “hungrier” now because he is “unemployed.”

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“Cam has meant a lot to this organization and the Carolinas,” general manager Marty Hurney said. “Everyone saw his performances on the field. I had the privilege of seeing how hard he worked off the field, and his commitment to this team when no one was watching. He’s the ultimate competitor and it physically hurts him to lose. He willed this team to victory on many occasions and will always be considered one of the greatest players in the history of this franchise. His contributions to this team, this community and the game of football will leave a lasting impact on our organization.”

The breakup did not end well.

After the Panthers announced Newton was free to seek a trade, the QB took to Twitter, posting a message directed at the front office that read, “Stop the word play!! I never asked for it!! There is no dodging this one; I love the Panthers to death and will always love you guys!! Please do not try and play me or manipulate the narrative and act like I wanted this: You forced me into this.”

According to reports, the Panthers tried to send Newton to the Bears or Chargers but were unable to make a deal, and there are no starting quarterback jobs available.

Releasing Newton was the only option, according to ESPN.

Newton now becomes a free agent and can sign with another NFL team immediately.

The move frees up $19.1 million in salary cap space for the Panthers. They’ll have to absorb $2 million in dead cap money.

The Panthers have agreed to a three-year, $63 million contract with free agent quarterback Teddy Bridgewater and on Monday agreed to a deal with former XFL star quarterback P.J. Walker.

The team also traded backup QB Will Grier to Washington on Monday.

Earlier this offseason the Panthers did not say much about Newton's future with the team.

Newton has battled shoulder and foot injuries the past two seasons and lost his last eight starts for the Panthers, who drafted him No. 1 in 2011.

Panthers All-Pro running back Christian McCaffrey thanked Newton on Instagram Tuesday, posting, “You changed the way I approach the game and put the fun back in it for me. I’ll always owe you for that. I speak for the Carolinas when I say thank you for all memories and smiles you brought us. Love!”

He was sidelined last season after Week 2 due to the Lisfranc fracture in his left foot he suffered during the preseason.

“He’s one of the all-time greats in Panthers history,” Panthers’ owner David Tepper said. “If you ask any of our fans for their most memorable moments, I’m willing to bet that most of them will include Cam — electrifying plays, giving away footballs after touchdowns, fun celebrations and big wins. His competitive and drive and rare. Off the field, you can’t measure Cam’s contributions. He has touched the lives of youths throughout the Carolinas and Atlanta.”

'I'm not a doctor': David Tepper says Cam Newton's future depends on health

Newton has gone 68–55–1 in his career, leading the Panthers to the playoffs four times. He helped Carolina reach Super Bowl 50 in February 2015 but lost to the Broncos.

Newton became a fan favorite on the field in Carolina early in his tenure, endearing himself to young fans by pretending to rip apart his jersey like Superman during touchdown celebrations and then giving the football away to young fans.

On the field, he used his chiseled 6-foot-5, 240-pound frame to run over defenders in Carolina’s zone-read offense and his strength and elusiveness to turn almost certain sacks into runs for first downs.

But during his tenure in Carolina, he was hit more than any quarterback in NFL history — which may have taken a toll on him physically.

He had surgery for a partially torn rotator cuff in his right shoulder last offseason after struggling to throw the ball more than 20 yards downfield in the second half of the 2018 season. He returned to the field last summer in training camp but injured his foot in the third preseason game at New England. He battled back to start the first two regular-season games, but it was evident he wasn’t the same player and was eventually placed on injured reserve where he had surgery for a Lisfranc fracture.

He lost his last eight starts for the Panthers.

Questions remain about Newton’s health moving forward, which could limit his options in free agency especially with doctors currently unable to put players through medical examinations because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“They could’ve did this two weeks ago,” tweeted former Panthers wide receiver Torrey Smith. “Terrible timing for a Qb.”

Newton is the Panthers' franchise leader in passing yards, passing touchdowns and rushing touchdowns.

Newton made the Pro Bowl three times and was the NFL's MVP in 2015 when he led the Panthers to the Super Bowl. He has run for more touchdowns than any QB in league history.

The decision to part ways with Newton is the latest in a complete organizational overhaul.

The team fired two-time Associated Press NFL Coach of the Year Ron Rivera with four games left in last season and hired a college coach, Baylor's Matt Rhule, this offseason to take over. Nearly the entire coaching staff is new, including Brady.

The Panthers previously released tight end Greg Olsen and middle linebacker Luke Kuechly abruptly retired. The team also allowed cornerback James Bradberry and defensive end Mario Addison — their top two free agents — to agree to terms with other teams.