Panthers: Newton can seek trade; QB says didn’t request it

Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton (1) walks off the field following the Panthers 20-14 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers following an NFL football game in Charlotte, N.C., Friday, Sept. 13, 2019. (AP Photo/Mike McCarn)
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — 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.

“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 to part ways with Newton is the latest in a complete organizational overhaul.

The team fired two-time Associated Press NFL Coach of the Year Ron Rivera with four games left in last season and hired a college coach, Baylor’s Matt Rhule, this offseason to take over. Nearly the entire coaching staff is new.

The Panthers previously released tight end Greg Olsen and middle linebacker Luke Kuechly abruptly retired. The team also allowed cornerback James Bradberry and defensive end Mario Addison — their top two free agents — to agree to terms with other teams.

The decision also 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.

Earlier this offseason, the Panthers announced that they had reached a decision to mutually part with Olsen, one of the team’s most popular players. Similar to Newton, Olsen later told several media outlets that there wasn’t much mutual about the decision and that the Panthers had made the decision to release him.

The news comes on the same day that Tom Brady announced he will not be playing for the Patriots next season and that Drew Brees re-signed with the two-time defending NFC South champion Saints.