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Greg Oliver: Newton departure good for him, Panthers

Former Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton recently found a new home following his release several months ago, landing with the New England Patriots on a one-year contract worth up to $7.5 million if incentives are reached.

Greg Oliver has been a staff writer at The Journal since 1994 and has written a weekly sports column since 2004. Write to him at [email protected]

While some NFL players and sports talking heads have called the deal insulting to Newton, as if $7.5 million is chump change, the marriage has the potential to be a win-win — both for Newton and for his old team.

In Newton’s case, it provides a change of scenery and a new beginning. By signing a one-year deal, the former Heisman Trophy winner and No. 1 overall pick of the Panthers has an opportunity to prove that he still has something left in the tank. If that proves to indeed be the case, a multi-year deal for even more money could be awaiting the former Auburn quarterback in 2021.

The Patriots undoubtedly share those sentiments, that the 31-year-old Newton has several more seasons of quality football left in him. After allowing Tom Brady — the GOAT — to leave for Tampa Bay after a 20-year relationship, the signing of Newton signals that New England isn’t quite ready for a full rebuild by handing the keys to the car to quarterback Jarrett Stidham.

Newton also did great things for the Panthers, helping take the franchise to its second Super Bowl in its history. The former Panther gave the organization credibility while at the helm, leading the team to several NFC South titles and four playoff appearances. Newton also gave the franchise juice in bringing fans to Charlotte and making the Panthers relevant.

I’ll never forget attending the Panthers’ opening evening of training camp in Spartanburg with my son, Gavin, during Newton’s rookie year in 2011. The buzz surrounding the newest Panther was clearly in the air, especially when he came over to sign autographs for fans at the end of practice.

As many great memories as Newton provided, it is also understandable why his time in Charlotte had to end. Injuries in recent years, including last season that limited him to only two games, mounted up and took its toll both on the quarterback as well as the team.

I don’t think any Panthers fan would say that new quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, who signed a three-year, $63 million deal in the offseason, is the long-term answer. In fact, the upcoming season, if indeed there is one, could find the team playing for the worst record in the NFL and the No. 1 pick in next year’s draft (hello, Trevor Lawrence?).

But the hiring of former Baylor and Temple head coach Matt Rhule, who has a history of turning losing programs around, and the team’s high marks earned from the recent NFL draft are indications that Carolina is heading in the right direction. The rebuilding process — and that’s definitely what the Panthers are in — would have been difficult for both Newton and the organization if he had stayed.

So Newton should receive nothing but well wishes from Panther fans for what he gave the organization during his stay. If Tom Brady and New England can part ways after six Super Bowl titles and a run of success few teams in NFL history have ever achieved or ever hoped to achieve, then no player is safe when the time comes, including Newton.

Thanks for the memories, Cam.