CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) – The Panthers are parting ways with Cam Newton and quickly working to find his replacement.
Carolina general manager Marty Hurney said Tuesday via Twitter the team is giving the 31-year-old quarterback permission to seek a trade – although the former league MVP responded by saying he never requested one.
â€œEvery year difficult decisions are made and they are never easy,â€ Hurney said. “We have been working with Cam and his agent to find the best fit for him moving forward and he will always be a Carolina Panther in our hearts.â€
Newton was quick to respond to the Panthers on social media, saying he didn’t ask for the trade.
â€œStop the word play!!â€ Newton tweeted. â€œI never asked for it!! There is no dodging this one; I love the Panthers to death and will always love you guys!! Please do not try and play me or manipulate the narrative and act like I wanted this: You forced me into this.â€
The Panthers appear to have their sights on Teddy Bridgewater as a replacement for Newton. The team is in negotiations with the free agent quarterback from the Saints, a person familiar with the situation told The Associated Press. The person spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity Tuesday because negotiations are ongoing and signings cannot be announced until Wednesday.
The 27-year-old Bridgewater spent the past two seasons with the Saints and led them to five straight wins while Drew Brees was injured, completing 68% of his passes with nine touchdown passes and two interceptions. Bridgewater previously worked one season in New Orleans with Joe Brady, who is now Carolina’s offensive coordinator, and would have some familiarity with the offensive scheme.
Newton has battled shoulder and foot injuries the last two seasons and lost his last eight starts for the Panthers.
A former No. 1 overall pick in 2011, Newton made the Pro Bowl three times and was the NFL’s MVP in 2015 when he led the Panthers to the Super Bowl. He holds most of the franchise’s passing records and has run for more touchdowns than any QB in league history.
But Newton is coming off Lisfranc fracture in his left foot and there has been plenty of uncertainty around his future – partly because of his injury status and partly because the team could save $19 million under the 2020 salary cap by trading or releasing him.
Panthers owner David Tepper, who has been noncommittal on Newton’s future with the team ever since last season, released what amounted to a goodbye statement Tuesday on Twitter saying â€œI wish him all of the best.â€
â€œHe’s one of the all-time greats in Panthers history,â€ Tepper said. â€œIf you ask any of our fans for their most memorable moments, I’m willing to bet that most of them will include Cam – electrifying plays, giving away footballs after touchdowns, fun celebrations and big wins. His competitive and drive and rare. Off the field, you can’t measure Cam’s contributions. He has touched the lives of youths throughout the Carolinas and the Atlanta.â€
The decision to part ways with Newton is the latest in a complete organizational overhaul.
The team fired two-time Associated Press NFL Coach of the Year Ron Rivera with four games left in last season and hired a college coach, Baylor’s Matt Rhule, this offseason to take over. Nearly the entire coaching staff is new, including Brady.
The Panthers previously released tight end Greg Olsen and middle linebacker Luke Kuechly abruptly retired. The team also allowed cornerback James Bradberry and defensive end Mario Addison – their top two free agents – to agree to terms with other teams.
If Bridgewater is signed, he would be expected to be the team’s starter over Kyle Allen and Will Grier.
The news comes on the same day Tom Brady announced he will not be playing for the Patriots next season and Brees re-signed with the two-time defending NFC South champion Saints.
More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL