Tuesday's NFL: Panthers: Cam Newton can seek trade; quarterback says he didn’t request it

Associated Press

Charlotte, N.C. — The Panthers are parting ways with Cam Newton.

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.

Cam Newton

“Every year difficult decisions are made and they are never easy,” 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.”

Newton was quick to respond to the Panthers on social media, saying he didn’t ask for the trade.

“Stop the word play!!” Newton tweeted. “I 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.”

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, 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 was coming off Lisfranc fracture in his left foot during the offseason and there was plenty of uncertainty around his future — partly because of his injury 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 “I wish him all of the best.”

“He’s one of the all-time greats in Panthers history,” Tepper said. “If 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.”

The decision leaves a lot of uncertainty at the quarterback position.

Kyle Allen started 12 games last season after Newton went down in Week 2 with a foot injury and was 5-7 as a starter with 23 turnovers and 17 touchdowns passes. Last year’s rookie Will Grier started the last two games, but struggled.

The Panthers have the No. 7 pick in the NFL draft, and there is a strong chance they could use that on a quarterback.

Brees sticks with Saints

The Saints and record-setting quarterback Drew Brees have agreed on a two-year, $50 million contract, a person familiar with the situation said.

The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the deal has not been announced.

Brees has said repeatedly that he is taking career decision one year at a time. His new contract gives the 41-year-old, 19-year veteran the leverage to decide after this season whether he wants to continue playing.

Brees missed five games with a throwing hand injury that required surgery but was still productive last season while leading New Orleans to a third straight playoff appearance. Brees’ 74.3% completion rate ranked second in NFL history behind only his 2018 record of 74.4%.

He also passed for 27 touchdowns while throwing just four interceptions and was selected to a fourth straight Pro Bowl, the 13th of his career.

Rivers heads to Indy

Philip Rivers spent more than a decade picking apart the Indianapolis Colts and irritating their fans.

On Wednesday, he’ll become their new quarterback.

The longtime Chargers star agreed to a one-year contract with Indy on Tuesday, according to a person who spoke to the Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the deal cannot be officially announced until Wednesday.

General manager Chris Ballard has now filled two major offseason needs in two days – adding an eight-time Pro Bowl quarterback to the roster less than 24 hours after acquiring Pro Bowl defensive tackle DeForest Buckner in a trade with San Francisco.

What the Colts are getting with the 38-year-old Rivers is a 16-year veteran, coming off a season in which he had his fewest touchdown passes, 23, since 2007 and his most interceptions, 20, since 2016. It was one reason the Chargers decided not to bring back the franchise’s career passing leader.

Raiders to add LB Littleton

The Las Vegas Raiders have agreed with free agent linebacker Cory Littleton on a three-year contract.

A person familiar with the contract says the sides came to agreement on the deal to give the Raiders a major upgrade at linebacker. 

The Raiders entered free agency with only one linebacker who started a game last year under contract in Marquel Lee. They have spent years trying to fill the position with mostly lower-round draft picks and bargain free agents.

Littleton is one of the best coverage linebackers in the league with the ability to match up with tight ends and running backs. Littleton’s 26 passes defensed are the most of any linebacker in the NFL over the past three seasons, according to SportRadar.

He started all 32 games the past two years with 259 tackles, 22 passes defensed, five interceptions, two forced fumbles, four fumble recoveries, 7½ sacks and 15 tackles for loss.

Quinn to join Bears' 'D'

The Bears have agreed to a five-year, $70 million deal with former All-Pro defensive end Robert Quinn, giving them another elite pass rusher to line up opposite outside linebacker Khalil Mack.

Agent Sean Kiernan confirmed the deal, which includes $30 million guaranteed, to the NFL Network. He did not immediately return messages from the Associated Press.

Quinn bounced back with 11½ sacks last year following a trade to Dallas from Miami despite a two-game suspension for violating the NFL’s policy against performance-enhancing drugs. He finished with single-digit sacks the previous four seasons for the St. Louis and Los Angeles Rams and the Dolphins. Quinn, who turns 30 in May, had 19 sacks for St. Louis in an All-Pro season in 2013 and had 10½ the following year on the way to his second straight Pro Bowl selection. He has 80½ in nine seasons.

Shazier on reserve/retired list

Ryan Shazier’s NFL career is over. For now at least.

The Steelers placed the inside linebacker on the reserved/retired list. Shazier spent the last two seasons on the Physically Unable to Perform list while recovering from a spinal injury suffered in December 2017.

Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert called the move “a matter of protocol” so the club could “ensure his continued inclusion within our organization moving forward in his professional career.”

The 27-year-old Shazier was in the midst of a breakout season when he hit Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Josh Malone in the back with his helmet during a Monday night game on Dec. 4, 2017. Shazier laid motionless on the ground for several minutes before being taken to the hospital. He underwent surgery three days later to stabilize his spine.

The 2014 first-round pick has vowed repeatedly that his career is not over. He has made remarkable strides in the two-plus years since the injury. After initially losing the feeling in his legs, he is now walking without a cane and has continued to work out in hopes of one day being cleared to play again.

Extra points

Defensive tackle Jordan Phillips has agreed to sign with the Arizona Cardinals, a person familiar with the situation told The Associated Press.

... The Jaguars have agreed to terms with free agent linebacker Joe Schobert, filling one of the team’s biggest needs. The Jaguars also have given contract offers to a pair of restricted free agents, linebacker Austin Calitro and receiver Keelan Cole.