The Cam Newton era is officially over in Carolina, and the team is moving forward with Teddy Bridgewater at the quarterback position in 2020. The Panthers are also ushering in a new head coach this season with Matt Rhule from Baylor. The Panthers and general manager Marty Hurney decided that the team needed a clean break from Newton, and will look much different as we move forward with other quarterback options heading into the 2021 NFL Draft and beyond.
With Newton gone, Carolina decided to bring in former Saints’ backup and free agent Teddy Bridgewater to lead the team this season. Bridgewater is still only 27 years old and led the Saints to an impressive 5-0 record while replacing an injured Drew Brees. The success in 2019 earned Bridgewater a three year, $63 million dollar contract this offseason.
However, he is less than four years removed from an absolutely devastating injury, and there is an uncertainty that he will be the future of this franchise at quarterback. Below, I will look at three intriguing options that could fit in with the Panthers’ future under coach Rhule. The future is bright again in Carolina, and one of these options could steering this team into that future.
Option #1: Justin Fields – Ohio State
The skill-set and body type of Justin Fields brings a natural comparison to the former Panthers’ starter Newton. Both players run with tremendous force and body control while being able to make every throw needed in the pocket and outside as well. Please take a look at this throw below, as Fields demonstrates tremendous awareness and accuracy as he moves outside the pocket and keeps his body square to make a perfect throw for the touchdown.
Arguably the best throw Justin Fields had all season long… pic.twitter.com/eTJuOhTKJ1
— 𝐂𝐅𝐁𝐋𝐢𝐯𝐞𝟐𝟒𝟕TM (@CFBLive247) May 22, 2020
This play is reminiscent of a throw Newton could make in his prime for the Panthers. Fields also has tremendous accuracy, especially on play-action routes, which is essential to be successful in this new offense. Earlier this month, I mentioned Fields as a good fit and an option for the Panthers if the team ends up selecting with one of the top overall picks of the 2021 NFL Draft.
The only drawback here is that the team seems unlikely to be choosing early enough to draft a quarterback like Fields, barring an injury to Bridgewater or a total team collapse. Fields will almost certainly become a top-five overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft immediately following his declaration. The Panthers have been hugely successful in recent years by playing tremendous defense upfront and running the ball well, which Fields will help with immediately.
Fields should give the team a top-five rushing attack in year one as he joins forces with superstar tailback, Christian McCaffrey. His impact on Carolina would be huge, and we could see a Lamar Jackson-esque success in their ground game as soon as he joins the starting lineup. Even if the team has to make a move to secure Fields, he makes a ton of sense for the Panthers in round one of the 2021 NFL Draft.
Option #2: Jamie Newman – Georgia
The next option for the Panthers on this list is a local product out of Graham, North Carolina. Jamie Newman is a prospect built like Fields with similar athletic traits and talent. He is a player currently in the mix to be the third quarterback selected after Fields and Clemson starter, Trevor Lawrence. While he may not be the same elite type of thrower as those two, he is a very talented prospect in his own right and should hear his name called no later than day two.
Newman made some serious noise in the ACC this past season for the Wake Forest Demon Deacons. He passed for over 2,800 yards and 26 touchdowns, adding 574 yards and six more scores on the ground. Newman guided a Wake Forest team with minimal offensive talent to an 8-5 record. Following the season, he decided to enter the transfer portal instead of the 2020 NFL Draft and made a move to become a Georgia Bulldog.
In 2020, Newman will be the presumed starter in 2020 and should make an immediate impact in the SEC East. There is an excellent chance he could lead the team in rushing after the departure of D’Andre Swift and has a plethora of talented receivers with George Pickens, Demetris Robertson, and Matt Landers. Just like Fields, Newman is great on play-action throws and will consistently give his receivers a chance downfield.
He’s not as consistently accurate as Fields, and also tends to get sloppy and force balls where he should not. If Newman can clean up his mechanics and make the routine throws more consistently in the SEC, his draft stock will rise tremendously. He could be available later in the first or at the top of the second to give the Panthers a long-term option at quarterback and some flexibility in the 2021 NFL Draft.
Option #3: Charlie Brewer – Baylor
The connection between Brewer and Rhule is an obvious one, which could make him one of the more sensible quarterback options for the Panthers in the middle to later rounds of the 2021 NFL Draft. After Rhule signed on to be the coach at Baylor in December of 2016, Brewer became one of his first commitments at the school. Brewer had initially committed to play quarterback at Southern Methodist before deciding to flip and play under coach Rhule at Baylor.
At the time, Brewer was a three-star, pro-style quarterback prospect out of Lake Travis high school in Austin, Texas. Brewer’s transition would be a seamless one to the Panthers, as he understands Rhule’s offense and can be a dual-threat in the mold of a Bridgewater or Newton. He is a tad undersized for the position at 6’1″, but is a tough player who has proven he can take hits as well as dish them out and he continued to lead his Baylor offense to impressive numbers during the season.
As with the previous two options on this list, Brewer also experienced success with play-action throws like the one below against Texas Tech.
— FOX College Football (@CFBONFOX) November 24, 2018
Brewer may not have the strongest arm, but he is accurate and can make plays with his legs when needed. Arm strength is not as essential to this offense as timing and accuracy. Young receivers D.J. Moore and Curtis Samuel have done an excellent job of creating yardage with their speed on screens and crossing patterns in recent years. Brewer would be a backup for a year or two before taking over at the conclusion of Bridgewater’s deal.
Scott Gorman is a writer for PFN covering the 2021 NFL Draft. You can follow him @sgormanPFN on Twitter.