Reunited: Panthers, QB Cam Newton agree to terms following Sam Darnold injury

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The Carolina Panthers need a quarterback. With Sam Darnold out for at least four weeks with a fractured scapula in his throwing shoulder, they need someone who can hold down the fort for a month and quite possibly longer. And you'll never guess who they're turning to in Darnold's absence.

Cam Newton. 

Yes, that Cam Newton. The same Cam Newton who was drafted No. 1 overall by the Panthers in 2011 and played for them until he was released before the 2020 season. 

The Panthers announced the signing of Newton on Thursday, following a reported meeting between Newton, Panthers owner David Tepper, VP of football operations Steven Drummond, and head coach Matt Rhule. 

According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, Newton has been signed to a one-year deal with $4.5 million fully guaranteed. 

Newton returns to Carolina after nearly 2 seasons away

Newton spent nine years with the Panthers, which included a banner 2015 season that saw him win the MVP award and lead his team to the Super Bowl. The Panthers lost to the Denver Broncos, and Newton had trouble reaching those dizzying heights again. 

Newton was signed by the New England Patriots following his release from the Panthers. He started 15 games for the Pats, but was released before the start of the 2021 season after a "misunderstanding" over an NFL-mandated COVID-19 test. Newton was unvaccinated at the time, and was forced to stay out of the team's facility for five days. The Patriots said that the testing mishap didn't cost Newton his job, but his absence allowed Mac Jones, the Pats' 2021 first-round draft pick, to win the starting spot. 

Since then, Newton has been without a team. But one important thing has reportedly changed: his vaccination status. According to NFL Network's Mike Garafolo, Newton got the COVID-19 vaccine in October after months of wavering. It will allow him to jump directly into game prep if a team signs him, and eliminates any worries about future slip-ups with the NFL's protocols for unvaccinated players. 

Now that the Panthers have officially signed Newton, that sets up a fascinating matchup in Week 11 when they face the Washington Football Team. Washington is now coached by Ron Rivera, who was the head coach of the Panthers during Newton's entire tenure. 

It's not likely that Newton starts Sunday when the Panthers take on the Arizona Cardinals, since the timeline is so tight. Carolina does have a starter lined up: P.J. Walker. The 26-year-old Walker has made just one other start in his NFL career, a 20-0 win against the Detroit Lions last season in which he threw two interceptions. The Panthers also signed Matt Barkley on Tuesday, a career backup QB who has thrown 11 touchdowns and 22(!) interceptions over his seven-year career.

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