The Panthers will not be looking to free agency for a quarterback to back up Cam Newton, Ron Rivera told the media Thursday at the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis, eliminating an option for a key position in 2019 after franchise quarterback Cam Newton underwent an arthroscopic procedure on his throwing shoulder to clean out scar tissue after missing the final two games of the season – the Panthers’ star battled shoulder soreness throughout the season.
Rivera began the question and answer session by updating the starting quarterback’s prognosis.
“Everything’s progressing very well – he’s going through his rehab session so everything’s been positive,” Rivera said, adding that Newton has been able to participate in workouts in addition to rehabilitation. “We’re really pleased on Cam’s progress this offseason based on the reports I’m getting from Ryan Vermillion.”
But even though Panthers owner David Tepper made it clear in a conversation with reporters earlier this offseason that having a “Plan B” would be important should Cam’s shoulder not be 100% or the quarterback suffer a different injury during the season, Rivera said specifically that the team would not find a backup from the free agent class that includes veterans like Tyrod Taylor, Colin Kaepernick or Ryan Fitzpatrick, instead saying that they would rather develop a young quarterback.
“If we did do anything, it’s probably going to be in the draft; we think developing a guy is important going forward,” said Rivera. “But we really do feel strongly about the two guys we have and, more importantly, I know Norv [Turner] has been pretty satisfied with what we got from those guys.”
“The last few years we have looked at taking a quarterback and a couple of times, the guy that we liked got taken before we got a chance to; the only reason you do it, obviously, is to increase your depth. We like who we have at our depth positions right now; we think both [Heinicke and Allen] came in and played well and showed us that they’re more than capable backups.”
Taylor Heinicke, the 25-year old journeyman who had previously spent time with Turner in Minnesota, spent the season as backup before starting Week 16 and suffering a hyperextended left elbow and heading to injured reserve for the second time in his career; undrafted free agent rookie Kyle Allen threw two touchdowns in New Orleans as he led the Panthers to a victory over the Saints in the final game of the season.
While Allen is signed through 2020, Heinicke is currently a restricted free agent – Rivera declined to say whether the team intends to tender the Old Dominion product.
Should the Panthers choose to draft a quarterback in April’s draft, they’d likely be looking at mid-to-late round options like Boise State’s Brett Rypien, Ole Miss’ Jordan Ta’amu or Murray State’s Drew Anderson.
“I think there’s some quality depth – I think this is a really good draft in terms of quality depth at a lot of positions; quarterback is not as deep as it’s been in the past, but the guys that they do have are quality guys and I look forward to watching those guys work out.”
Quarterbacks will take the field for workouts on Saturday.