CHARLOTTE (N.C.) -- A big smiley fan wore a No. One hour and a half after the announcement that Cam Newton would be returning to the Carolina Panthers, 1 Cam Newton was seen at Bank of America Stadium.
Nearby, the Morehead Street overpass was echoed by the sound of cars honking their engines.
Rain clouds fell over the city. However, the word that Superman had returned to the Super Bowl 50 team in 2015 was like a ray light to the city. The reaction from fans was overwhelmingly positive.
Newton was and is still the most famous player of any franchise that was founded in 1995. Newton, the top pick in the 2011 draft, electrified Carolinas with his physical abilities and eccentric style for seven seasons before injuries made him a mere human the last two seasons.
He won't be Superman at 32.
He is humble, but he wants to prove himself again.
He was also the best option for the 4-5 Carolina team, which still hopes to make the playoffs in the second year under Matt Rhule. Rhule was one of the decision-makers when Newton was released in spring 2020. Best of NFL Nation * Lamar Jackson's legend is rooted in South FL
* J.J. Watt made WWII vet relevant again
* Will Chris Grier, Miami's GM, make a profit?
* Broncos looking for a QB in offseason
* Haason Reddick joins elite Edge-rushers
This contract, which includes a guaranteed $4.5 million and a roster bonus of $1.5 million for the remainder of the year, is indicative that this is not a joke.
Rhule stated Wednesday that his job was to win now, but refused to speculate about Newton's interest at the time. "Our fans don't pay money to see us win in two more years." You're also trying to build a Super Bowl-caliber football team. It's difficult to balance the long-term goals with trying to win. These are often the same thing.
"There are four NFC teams with more than six wins. All the rest are about our level. Many teams in the NFL are currently trying to overcome.500 to have a great year and win the second half.
After learning Tuesday that Sam Darnold had suffered a shoulder injury in Sunday's loss against the New England Patriots on Sunday, Newton was back on Carolina's radar. This is the same team Newton played for last year and until his release Aug. 31.
Darnold was still struggling, so backup P.J. Walker has only one NFL start. Rhule confirmed Thursday night that Walker would start Sunday's game at 4:05 p.m. ET, Fox) at Arizona Cardinals -- where Newton, coincidentally played his first NFL game in 2011, Walker was confirmed Thursday. It makes more sense to turn long-term to a player who has 139 starts, moving forward.
Let's take a closer look at the process:
Are the Panthers better than Newton?
Former NFL MVPs are not available for hire, like Newton in 2015. Philip Rivers could have been Carolina's choice, but his only interest was with the New Orleans Saints.
Carolina signed veteran Matt Barkley from the Tennessee Titans' practice team Wednesday. However, he has only seven starts and a record of 2-5 in those games. Newton has won 75 games, with 68 of those victories coming with the Panthers.
How does Newton fit in to Joe Brady's offense
This seems like a strange fit for an offensive coordinator. Brady's system is based on precision timing and consistency. These are not Newton's strong points, especially in the last few years. His career completion percentage is 60.1 All you need for this week is the NFL.
* Full schedule >> | Standings >>
* Each team has its own depth chart
* Football Power Index Rankings >>
More NFL coverage >>
Newton played his best in 2018, when he started with a 6-2 record. His career-best completion percentage was 67.9. Newton's final eight starts with Carolina were a failure. He was then shut down by the Carolina Athletic Commission two games into 2019.
Brady has been more open to running after Rhule's edict. He can now use more of the run option that made Newton so elite. Although the Patriots believed Newton could still play, they weren't ready to change their offense to match his style. The Panthers appear to be open to it.
What does Newton do to help Christian McCaffrey
He had a breakout year with Newton as a running back, rushing for 1,098 yards while catching 107 passes for 867 yard. McCaffrey was more open to McCaffrey's running attack, so teams had to concentrate on Newton.
The offensive line is now down to Taylor Moton, right tackle. He started the season at the same spot because of injuries. This double threat becomes more important.
McCaffrey is also able to help Newton. Newton can still rely on No. 22
What are your realistic expectations of Cam?
This is a low bar. Newton has a record of 7-16 in his 23 previous starts between New England and Carolina. He has 17 touchdowns and 20 interceptions. He does have 16 rushing touchdowns and Rhule has committed to running. They have a chance at the playoffs in NFC if Newton can help them get to 8-9 and 9-8.
Walker is unlikely to get them there with a schedule that includes trips to the Saints and Buffalo Bills as well as two games against the defending Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Newton was the Panthers' leader in four consecutive wins that ended the 2014 season. They were also NFC South champions at 7-8-1. They beat Arizona in the playoffs, before losing to the Seattle Seahawks. At least Newton gives Carolina hope, even if it is not a shot.