Panthers Coach Ron Rivera, who said a few weeks ago that Newton would be the team’s starter upon his return from injury, wasn’t quite ready to reaffirm that on Monday.
“Quite honestly, I don’t answer the question,” Rivera said. “I’m not going to worry, speculate on anything until I have to address that. Until then, we’re going to stay in the now, focus on what we’re doing right now. Again, as far as I’m concerned, we’re just not going to deal with the question until it’s time. … [Newton] is in his rehab program, doing his program. Our quarterback right now that has been playing for us is Kyle. We’re not going to address it.”
Bleacher Report’s Mike Freeman talked with NFL insiders who said it’s not a question of whether Allen, 23, is a better quarterback than Newton but rather whether Allen has a better chance of staying healthy than the 30-year-old Newton, who was shut down because of a shoulder issue last season, had surgery to correct it in the offseason and now has dealt with the foot injury this season.
It’s gotten to the point where Freeman gauged the trade market for Newton, finding that as many as 10 teams would be interested, though others are turned off by all the injuries and feel Newton might be on his last legs as a viable NFL starter.
There’s also the matter of Newton’s $21 million salary cap hit next season, the final year of his contract. Should the Panthers continue to win under Allen, Carolina could keep Newton on the roster for the rest of this season and then cut him, saving a significant chunk against the cap.
SB Nation’s James Dator posits that this shouldn’t even be a controversy, that Newton is far and away the better quarterback when healthy. He points to the success of Swiss-army-knife running back Christian McCaffrey and the Panthers’ defense — eight interceptions and five fumble recoveries — as the true reasons behind their 4-0 run, noting also that Allen has fumbled six times in his four starts, losing four of them.
But there’s that “when healthy” stuff again, and Newton has now missed time this season and last season. Whether that’s enough reason for the Panthers to move on from him remains to be seen.