Panthers owner acknowledges QB Cam Newton could sit out 2019

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The Carolina Panthers are keeping all options open concerning the sore right shoulder of quarterback Cam Newton, including the possibility of not having the 2015 NFL MVP available for the 2019 season.

Asked to compare Newton's situation with that of Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck, owner David Tepper said Tuesday, "If you told me he took a year off and could recover and be fully recovered and everything else, and that's what it took, an extra year, why wouldn't you do [that]?"

"Now we would have to do other things, right? We'd have to go out and get another quarterback. If you could find me some more cap space I'd appreciate that."

Newton was shut down the final two games when it became apparent the strength in his throwing shoulder, which was surgically repaired prior to the 2017 season, didn't give the Panthers the best chance to win.

The organization has been in discussions with medical personnel on the best plan to strengthen the shoulder, whether that's with rest or another surgery. A second surgery opens the possibility Newton could miss a season as Luck did in 2017 after undergoing surgery on his throwing shoulder.

Luck returned this season to throw 39 touchdowns, the second most of his career, during a 10-6 regular season.

"When you make a decision, this gets into business, or here ... you want to keep your options open as much as possible," Tepper said in his first sit-down interview since finalizing in July the purchase of the team for $2.275 billion. "And you want to put yourself in a position to win. Not a position to lose, but a position to win.

"That means keep your options open and try to have as much [cap] space as you possibly can."

The Panthers, who lost seven of their final eight games to finish 7-9, currently have approximately $25 million in cap space. That ranks among the bottom half of the league.

They can clear another $7.2 million in space by releasing left tackle Matt Kalil, who missed the 2018 season with a knee injury, with a June 1 designation. They could recreate another $3.5 million in space by parting with nickelback Captain Munnerlyn.

Offensive coordinator Norv Turner and coach Ron Rivera have said the uncertainty around Newton's shoulder has created a "sense of urgency" at the quarterback position. Whether that means depending on an unproven talent such as Kyle Allen, an undrafted rookie who led Carolina to a 33-14 victory over New Orleans in the regular-season finale, signing a veteran, or using a high draft pick on a quarterback remains to be seen.

Signing a veteran could force the Panthers to cut costs at other positions.

Among the veteran options are Philadelphia's Nick Foles, New Orleans' Teddy Bridgewater, Tyrod Taylor and Ryan Fitzpatrick. Foles and Bridgewater are looking for starting jobs.

"Hopefully, Cam's shoulder is fantastic, right? And we're hunky dory, all fantastic," Tepper said. "If it's not, you may need more cap space. You may need to go out and find somebody. If you don't, you guys are going to be writing what a dope we are here. Why did we make these other moves?

"So think about that. You want to keep your options open, put yourself in best position as you can to win, and I'm talking again for the long term."

Tepper said Newton's shoulder, which became an issue after an Oct. 21 win at Philadelphia got the record to 4-2, was one of the several factors that convinced him to keep Rivera and general manager Marty Hurney after the second-half collapse.

"As Cam's shoulder got worse, that made it much harder to win," Tepper said. "Don't know what coaches can do about that.

"People get injured in football, and what we have to do is keep our options open just in case. Cam Newton is a guy we're going to be depending on. He's a talent. But it would be foolish to say you're not having an awareness of potential things that could happen during the year."