To solve their quarterback issues, the Carolina Panthers are going back to a familiar face — the familiar face — of the franchise.
The Panthers announced Thursday that they have agreed to terms with free agent Cam Newton — the team’s all-time leader in passing yards, passing touchdowns and rushing touchdowns. The deal will be pending a physical. This came after the Charlotte Observer reported earlier on Thursday that Newton would be visiting the franchise.
Carolina has been battling poor play and now a key injury at the position. Sam Darnold, the team’s starter, began 2021 with solid play in a 3-0 start, but has slumped and is tied for the league lead with 11 interceptions. In a 24-6 loss against the New England Patriots, Darnold suffered an incomplete fracture in his throwing shoulder and will now miss four to six weeks. P.J. Walker is the team’s backup and had been expected to start Sunday’s game against the Arizona Cardinals, prior to Newton’s signing. It’s unclear if Newton will be available Sunday.
Multiple reports indicate that the agreement is a one-year deal worth as much as $10 million, with $4.5 million guaranteed and a $1.5 million roster bonus.
The Panthers selected Newton No.1 overall in the 2011 NFL draft and he was the team’s starter from 2011-19, until injuries derailed his time there. In March 2020, the Panthers released Newton, who signed with the New England Patriots in June of that year as the team was looking to replace Tom Brady. Newton played one season in New England, but the team missed the playoffs. The Patriots picked quarterback Mac Jones in the 2021 NFL draft and Newton lost the quarterback competition during training camp, leading to his release, which the Patriots announced in August.
To celebrate the signing, the Panthers’ social media account posted an image of Newton standing alongside franchise owner David Tepper and also a hype video of Newton emerging from the tunnel during pre-game introductions at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte.
Newton, 32, threw for 29,041 passing yards and 182 touchdowns and also rushed for 58 scores in his nine seasons with Carolina.
Newton’s best season with the Panthers was in 2015, when he helped lead the team to a 15-1 record. Carolina would eventually lose to the Broncos in Super Bowl 50, but Newton walked away with MVP honors, the first and only time he has won the award, after he gained 4,473 total yards of offense and 45 total touchdowns.
Based on the online roster on the team’s website, Newton will wear the No. 1 jersey he made popular during his previous stint with the team.
The value of the contract suggests that the Panthers may view Newton as a more permanent fixture for the rest of the season, even when Darnold is healthy.
“My job is to try to win right now,” Panthers coach Matt Rhule said Wednesday. “Our fans aren’t paying money to watch us win in two years. At the same time, you’re trying to build a Super Bowl-caliber team. So it’s a balancing act of doing what’s right long-term and trying to win at the same time. Many times those are the same thing.
“There are four teams in the NFC with more than six wins. Everyone else is about like us. Lots of teams right now in the NFL are trying to figure out how to get past .500, and have a good year and win in the second half of the year. … My job is to try to win.”
On Tuesday, Carolina also signed backup quarterback Matt Barkley off of the practice squad of the Tennessee Titans.
The Panthers (4-5) are currently the eighth seed in the NFC, which puts them just on the outside of the playoff picture through the first half of the season. The Atlanta Falcons (4-4), the No. 7 seed and an NFC South rival, also face a tough test Week 10 in the 6-2 Dallas Cowboys.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Cam Newton returns to Panthers after QB-needy team brings in old face