Did Carolina really sign Cam Newton because Sam Darnold will be out for the year?

Carolina Panthers

GLENDALE, ARIZONA – NOVEMBER 14: Quarterback Cam Newton #1 of the Carolina Panthers rushes the football for a touchdown against inside linebacker Zaven Collins #25 of the Arizona Cardinals during the first quarter of the NFL game at State Farm Stadium on November 14, 2021 in Glendale, Arizona. The Panthers defeated the Cardinals 34-10. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WNCN) – After joining the Carolina Panthers just days before Sunday’s upset win in Arizona due to a weeks-long injury to Sam Darnold, reports are beginning to swirl that Darnold may head to season-ending injured reserve, opening the door for Cam Newton.

Newton was responsible for two touchdowns in the Panthers’ upset Sunday despite not starting as the team’s signal-caller.

Head coach Matt Rhule and Carolina’s organization wanted Newton to ease back into the mix a little bit before taking a shot at starting in a game, despite the rumored impending announcement of him starting Week 11 against the Washington Football Team.

Newton was the former No. 1 overall pick to the Panthers in 2011 and led the team to a Super Bowl appearance in 2015. But, after dealing with shoulder and foot injuries and steadily declining, the Panthers moved on from the former first-rounder.

But, Darnold suffered a shoulder injury in Week 8 that is now worse than originally reported.

He has what’s called an incomplete fracture to the shoulder blade, something that takes a minimum of 4-6 weeks to heal.

With that timetable, Carolina could be looking at a Week 12-14 return, at best. But, Rhule said in media availability last week that Darnold is “out indefinitely” and did not commit to that minimum time frame.

Even if Darnold is able to return this season, it may not be something Carolina jumps into.

New this season after being traded from the New York Jets, Darnold led the Panthers to a quick 3-0 start. However, that quickly folded into a 3-4 record and the team currently sits at 5-5 with the upset win from Sunday.

Darnold also has more interceptions (11) than passing touchdowns (7) on the season.

Carolina was also strategic in Newton’s contract, making it heavily incentive-based for the postseason. With the new NFL playoff format, the Panthers currently hold the final NFC playoff spot after Week 10.

ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported Newton has $4 million in incentives woven into his one-year deal.

He will collect $500,000 for each playoff win that he plays at least 50 percent of, $1.5 million if Carolina makes another Super Bowl appearance and he plays in 50-percent of the offensive snaps and a $1 million bonus if he is selected as the Super Bowl’s Most Valuable Player.

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