Superstar former Auburn quarterback Cam Newton is on his way out of the Carolina Panthers organization, with a blockbuster trade looming for the 2015 NFL MVP.
The trade will end a nine-year stint for Newton with the Panthers. Carolina is signing New Orleans backup Teddy Bridgewater.
The breakup between Newton and the Panthers spilled into public eye on Tuesday when Carolina put out a statement on social media implying Newton wanted to be traded away, and Newton himself replied saying he was forced into the situation and that the team was trying to manipulate the narrative around the departure.
Regardless, one of the NFL’s spotlight stars expects to suit up in a new uniform next season — and fans of his in Auburn now wait to see what’s next.
ESPN’s Chris Mortensen reported Bridgewater’s move to Carolina later Tuesday afternoon amid the fallout.
Newton led the Panthers to the Super Bowl in 2015, the same year that he won that MVP award. He’s a three-time Pro Bowl player, a former Rookie of the Year, and with charisma known well on the Plains, he’s become known as a controversial, infectious, can’t-miss player.
Newton won the national championship at Auburn in 2010 and won the Heisman Trophy that season. He was drafted No. 1 overall by Carolina in the next spring’s NFL Draft and has been with the program since. Over the last two seasons, he has battled shoulder and foot injuries, and his future with the organization was thrust into uncertainty when a new owner cleaned house firing head coach Ron Rivera this offseason and couldn’t seem to publicly commit to Newton in a way the quarterback would have appreciated.
Carolina publicly signaled their coming end together by releasing statements Tuesday, with a post to Instagram reading: “We have given Cam Newton permission to seek a trade.”
Newton replied to that post with his personal account.
“Stop with the word play. I never asked for this,” he replied, through his familiar, aesthetic texting style. “There is no dodging this one. I love the Panthers to death and will always love you guys. Please do not try to play me or manipulate the narrative and act like I wanted this. You forced me into this.”
His former teammate and star tight end Greg Olsen spoke up in the same comments: “Sounds familiar,” he said.
Newton, Olsen and Rivera are all out of Carolina as is former star linebacker Luke Kuechly, who retired this offseason amid the Panthers making these sweeping changes. New team owner David Tepper took over the team in May 2018 and this offseason has taken on a public role in justifying big changes in the organization.
Weeks ago, Newton seemed to call out that management in a video posted to Instagram on Feb. 25, shouting, “All I want is a little commitment, and you can’t even give me that?” Newton had earlier been all-in on Carolina in public comments. Tepper, after hiring former Baylor head coach Matt Rhule, wasn’t returning the sentiment.
Two coveted free agents in James Bradberry and Mario Addison have also left Carolina this offseason. Olsen ultimately signed with Seattle. Rivera is the new head coach at Washington.
The NFL is continuing offseason moves like these amid mandates for social distancing. The NFL plans to hold its annual draft on April 23 as a made-for-TV event without a public gathering or spectacle.