Carolina's attempt to reclaim the career of Sam Darnold has failed, and the team is exploring a potential reunion with a familiar face.
Free-agent quarterback Cam Newton is set to meet with the Panthers about a return to Charlotte, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported Thursday.
The Charlotte Observer first reported the news.
Newton last played for the Panthers in 2019, starting in two games before a foot injury ended his campaign. Carolina moved on from Newton in the offseason, leaving him to seek employment elsewhere and ultimately landing in New England. The Patriots released him at the end of the 2021 preseason, handing the keys to rookie Mac Jones, while Carolina moved forward with Darnold after acquiring him via trade in the offseason.
Since his release from the Patriots, Newton has remained a free agent while awaiting the right opportunity to return to the NFL with a team in need. Newton was vaccinated during his period of unemployment, minimizing concern about potentially missing significant playing time due to a positive COVID-19 test and making him a more attractive signing for prospective teams. Because of his changed vaccination status, Newton could join the Panthers and practice quickly instead of being forced into the NFL's entry cadence for unvaccinated new signings, per Rapoport.
Darnold's fractured scapula forced the Panthers to place him on injured reserve following five weeks of dreadful play that included Darnold throwing eight interceptions between Weeks 5-9 and a benching in the Panthers' Week 7 loss to the New York Giants. Darnold's three interceptions thrown in Carolina's Week 9 loss to New England appeared to serve as a turning point for the 4-5 Panthers, and his shoulder injury expedited a change under center.
That change could now include Newton, who struggled in his final few seasons to replicate his once-elite performance from his best days as a Panther, including an MVP season in 2015 that resulted in a trip to Super Bowl 50. Should he sign with Carolina this week, he'll join a team that plays the NFC's top team, the 8-1 Arizona Cardinals, this weekend.
The week that follows will include a date with the Washington Football Team, which means a reunion with Newton's former coach in Carolina, Ron Rivera. Rivera declined to pursue Newton following his departure from the Patriots, and Washington has been rolling with backup Taylor Heinicke as its starter following an early injury to veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick.
Newton might move back to the Queen City just in time for that spicy affair.