Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Cam's Heir Apparent?

Jason Huber
April 27, 2019 - 12:37 am

A shoulder injury to Cam Newton has been the talk of the Carolina Panthers offseason, and now, the Panthers have an insurance policy, drafting Charlotte native and quarterback Will Grier in the third round with the 100th overall pick in the NFL Draft.

In Week 10 of the 2018 season, Newton re-aggravated his right shoulder after a hard hit by the Pittsburgh Steelers. Newton suffered a partially torn right rotator cuff in 2016 that he had surgically repaired in 2017.

After getting re-injured, Newton and Carolina lost seven straight games after a 6-2 start to the season, before the team shut Newton down for the final two games of the year.

During the losing streak, Newton completed just four of 16 attempts that traveled 20-plus yards beyond the line of scrimmage.

Newton had an arthroscopic procedure in the offseason and has reiterated that he will be fully healthy for the 2019 season, but the uncertainty of his shoulder with two years remaining on his contract led Carolina to pick a quarterback in the draft for the first time since they picked Newton in 2011.

“This has nothing to do with Cam,” Panthers general manager Marty Hurney said. “Cam Newton is our starting quarterback and our franchise quarterback. This is about depth and grooming young guys."

Hurney said the Panthers didn’t give Newton a courtesy call, but Newton, “knew this was a possibility.”

Newton commented on the Panthers Instagram post about the selection writing? “LOVE.”

“I look so forward to just being in the same room as him and watching what he does,” Grier said. “He’s an unbelievable player. I have so much respect for what he does. He’s a baller. He’s one of the best to ever do it.”

If Newton is indeed back to full health, Grier may not see the field as a starter for a long time.

Newton has two years and $44.3 million remaining on his contract, with $2 million of dead money after 2019, leaving Grier as Newton’s likely successor.

“I think this is a position where when you find a guy that you like for the most important position on your team, you gotta get him,” Hurney said. “Will has the ‘It’ factor. He’s a very talented quarterback that we had the chance to get.”

Grier, 24, played for local high school Davidson Day, before choosing to play at University of Florida.

Grier began to make a name for himself as a redshirt freshmen in 2015, but his season was cut short after testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs, leading to a one-year suspension.

Grier said the test stemmed from an over-the-counter supplement, Ligandrol, that he didn’t know was banned.

Following the suspension, Grier transferred to West Virginia, where he became a Heisman Trophy candidate during his final two seasons. He threw for 30-plus touchdowns 3,500+ yards in each of his last two seasons.

“It’s overwhelming. I grew up a Panthers fan,” Grier said. “I don’t even have to move. I’m already here. This is what I’ve always wanted.”

Now, the question is what the future holds for Newton and whether Carolina will ever start Grier.

"I think the Panthers just got the best quarterback in this draft,” Grier said.

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