Carolina Panthers head coach Matt Rhule wants Cam Newton to be on the roster in 2020.
The injured quarterback is rehabbing from foot surgery and might not be ready for training camp. He’s entering the final year of his current contract and will need to get up to speed with a new coaching staff, including the terminology and concepts installed by coordinator Joe Brady.
“When Cam’s healthy, he’s one of the best of the best,” Rhule said Tuesday afternoon at the Indiana Convention Center. “When it comes to Cam, the biggest thing is getting him healthy. I absolutely want Cam here. There’s no doubt about that.”
Rhule would not say Newton — or any other player on the Panthers’ roster — was the starter. As a first-year coach, Rhule said he explained to players he wouldn’t be handing out starting jobs without getting his team on the field first.
This might not sit well with Newton, who posted an ominous message to his Instagram account before Rhule met the media in Indianapolis. Newton’s message could have also been specific to his contract situation, but he didn’t follow up. Newton is owed $21.1 million in 2020, which is well below market value at the position.
“I’m so comfortable with being uncomfortable ... All I want is a little commitment,” Newton wrote to Instagram without mentioning the Panthers or his contract. “And you can’t give me that?”
—Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa is in Indianapolis for this week’s event but will participate only in medical evaluations — his exam went from 10 a.m. until 7:49 p.m. on Monday — and team interviews.
Tagovailoa said he expects to be fully cleared by doctors on March 9, and plans to hold his own pro day on April 9. Alabama’s other draft-eligible players are working out on March 24. He understands teams will need to see how he moves and performs at the workout before finalizing a draft evaluation.
“Whether it’s first, 32nd or 200, I’ll be grateful,” Tagovailoa said. “These informal interviews, I’ve just got to be myself. If I’m not the right person for these teams, I’m not the person. The right team will find me.”
—Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians isn’t ready to hitch the wagon to Jameis Winston as the team’s franchise quarterback. In an honest assessment of Tampa Bay’s position, Arians and general manager Jason Licht separately made reference to a need to see “what’s behind Door No. 2.”
“It’s not like we don’t like Jameis. We do like Jameis. This is a unique year with a lot of experienced quarterbacks who could be available,” Licht said. “We prepare for every scenario. Jameis is one of those scenarios. We prepare for everything.”
Arians mentioned the names of Tom Brady (Patriots) and Drew Brees (Saints) among the veterans on the Buccaneers’ radar.
—Add the Denver Broncos to the list of team’s hoping to gain an audience with Brady in March if he makes it to unrestricted free agency without first signing a new deal with the New England Patriots.
Team president John Elway lured Peyton Manning to Denver and 2012. He has a potential quarterback of the future in Drew Lock, who went 4-1 in the final five games of the season but missed the first 10 games recovering from a thumb issue and hasn’t been fully tested.
Might Elway give Brady a ring for a chance at another trophy?
“We’d always talk to him,” Elway said with a smile. “But I think we’re happy with what we have in Drew.”
—Cincinnati Bengals head coach Zac Taylor, whose team owns the No. 1 pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, plans to use all the time he needs to decide how to invest the selection in April.
Taylor called Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa “very impressive” and showered praise on LSU quarterback Joe Burrow, the Heisman-winner with Ohio roots, and Oregon’s Justin Herbert. Herbert played for the Bengals’ coaching staff at the Senior Bowl.
“We’re going to take as long as it takes to decide,” Taylor said.
Since the team plans to hit the pro day circuit and visit with its top-ranked players in person, no final call is expected before mid-April. Tagovailoa is holding a personal pro day on April 9.
The Bengals do hope to have closure on another personnel matter before that: signing wide receiver A.J. Green to a long-term deal. Taylor said Green’s contract is a top offseason priority.
—Oklahoma quarterback Jalen Hurts, a Heisman finalist at Oklahoma who won the national title with Alabama before transferring to Norman, said he is not willing to relent on requests from personnel departments who want him to work out at other positions.
“I’m a quarterback,” Hurts said.
—Las Vegas Raiders general manager Mike Mayock said the Raiders loved Derek Carr’s performance in 2019 and have told their incumbent starter as much, but he kept the door open for a change at the position.
“The bottom line is this: I think everyone needs to understand the level at which Derek played last year,” Mayock said. “Derek played at a high level. We were very pleased with Derek. And every position is evaluated every year. If we can upgrade, we will.”
—After contemplating retirement, Colts veteran left tackle Anthony Castonzo plans to play in 2020, general manager Chris Ballard said at the NFL Scouting Combine.
Set to begin his 10th NFL season, the 31-year-old Castonzo has played with the Colts since they made him a first-round pick (22nd overall) in the 2011 NFL Draft out of Boston College. He hinted at a possible retirement after the 2019 season.
—Houston Texans head coach Bill O’Brien will surrender play-calling duties for the second time during his tenure with the team. Meanwhile, Bears head coach Matt Nagy defended his own decision to keep those chores in Chicago but also said he needs to do a better job fitting the scheme around his personnel, not vice versa.
—Jaguars general manager Dave Caldwell wouldn’t commit to a starting quarterback. Sixth-round rookie Gardner Minshew and Nick Foles, Caldwell said, give the team confidence that they have two quarterbacks “ready to play.”
Jacksonville will not pick up the option of defensive tackle Marcell Dareus. Caldwell said the Jaguars are interested in bringing Dareus back on a new deal.
—Field Level Media