Panthers To Rebuild, But How Much?

Brett Jensen
January 09, 2020 - 2:20 pm

The Carolina Panthers are starting afresh, but to what degree is the overriding question.

We know there will be substantial changes on defense, which has 12 players that are free agents, most of whom are either starters or primary backups.

Team owner David Tepper even said as much following Wednesday’s introductory press conference of new head coach Matt Rhule. But Tepper didn’t get very specific in just how drastic the overall rebuild of the team will be.

“We have a shared vision and we know it’s not going to be a fast process,” Tepper said. “We’re willing to build something for the long term. It’s a building process. Things could happen fast, and maybe they will, but we’re in a building process here and sometimes you have to tear things down to build them up.”

When the term, “rebuilding” is bantered about, one automatically jumps to wonder about star quarterback Cam Newton and his future with the team.

Newton is entering the final year of his contract and stands to make $21 million this season. But should the Panthers opt to release him, they’d only have to pay him $2 million, allowing the team to spend that money elsewhere.

Newton is also coming off back-to-back seasons where he was injured and required surgery in the offseason. Two years ago, it was his throwing shoulder. This time, after missing 14 games, it was his foot that needed surgery.

That’s not ideal for a quarterback that has relied on his ability to run more than most others at his position in the NFL.

It appears as though Tepper won’t judge the success of Rhule for at least a couple of years, especially if the team is without Newton.

Knowing that the restructuring of the roster and key positions could take a few years is one reason why Rhule was given a highly unusual seven-year contract for someone that’s never coached in the NFL.

“It takes time,” Tepper said. “You’ve got to develop players, but (Rhule) is a master developer of men and I think we can have something special here and something just a little bit different.”

When Tepper was asked twice specifically about the future of Newton with the team, he sidestepped the answer.

“The vision is to get the best out of anybody who is on this team,” he said. “We all share that vision.”

There’s nothing in that statement that seems to indicate that at seems to indicate Newton will return. Yet, there’s also nothing definitive in Tepper’s remark that says Newton is gone.

Conventional wisdom among the media and football experts is that Newton will be one of many veteran players no longer with Carolina in 2020. And should that happen, the Dave Tepper Era will be in full swing.

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