Fantasy football fallout of Cam Newton's return to the Carolina Panthers

Cam Newton has signed a one-year deal to return to the Carolina Panthers AP Photo/Mike McCarn, File

The career of Cam Newton in the NFL is coming full circle. Newton and the Carolina Panthers met on Thursday morning, and the team announced that Newton would return to the team pending a physical. He signed a one-year $10 million contract after meeting with head coach Matt Rhule, owner David Tepper and vice president of football operations Steven Drummond.

Newton has been a free agent since the Patriots released him in August. During his only season in New England, Newton averaged 177.1 passing yards, 39.5 rushing yards and 19.3 fantasy points per game. It wasn't the kind of season the Patriots were looking for, so they selected former Alabama quarterback Mac Jones in the 2021 NFL draft. With the writing on the wall for Newton heading into training camp, he was given his release before the end of training camp.

Additional testing on starting quarterback Sam Darnold's shoulder earlier this week revealed a fractured right shoulder blade. It's expected that he will miss four to six weeks, and Carolina's only other active quarterbacks are P.J. Walker and Matt Barkley. So what the Panthers need is a starting quarterback quickly.

Darnold's struggles have been well documented. During Weeks 1-4, he averaged 27.1 points per game, and many applauded the Panthers' front office for trading for him this offseason and moving on from Teddy Bridgewater. Darnold's performance changed substantially from Weeks 5-8, when he averaged 9.4 fantasy points per game.

Statistically, Walker and Barkley were not viable options for the Panthers either. In his seven-year career, Barkley has thrown 11 touchdowns and 22 interceptions, compared to Walker's one start against the Lions in which he threw two interceptions. This was a perfect opportunity for Newton and the Panthers to mend fences after their tumultuous breakup. Each of them benefits from the union, as Carolina (5-6) still has aspirations of a playoff berth.

Newton ranks among the best players in Panthers franchise history. Since his rookie season in 2011, fantasy managers have sought out his dual-threat ability. From 2011 to 2019, Newton averaged 232.3 passing yards, 38.4 rushing yards and 22.5 points per game. He's the Panthers' all time leader in passing yards (29,041) and touchdowns (240). With 4,806 yards rushing, Newton ranks third on Carolina's all-time rushing list, behind only DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart.

This season, the Panthers have averaged 28.6 rushing attempts (8th) per game. This trend should continue for the rest of the season, but Newton's experience as a starter will help if Carolina is forced to rely more on the passing game. The rest-of-the-season outlooks for wide receiver DJ Moore and running back Christian McCaffrey aren't significantly altered by his arrival. Newton can be considered a midrange QB2.