If it was up to Max Kellerman, the Cam Newton era would undoubtedly continue in Carolina once the quarterback got healthy.
Speaking in his usual spot on ESPN's First Take, Kellerman made a case for the Panthers to reinsert him as the starting quarterback once he's eligible to return. Newton was placed on injured reserve last week with a foot injury.
Carolina (5-4) lost their latest Newton-free game against Green Bay on Sunday, but have otherwise kept pace in the crowded NFC playoff picture with Kyle Allen at the helm. They're currently a game-and-a-half behind Minnesota for the last wild card and two games behind New Orleans for the division lead. Kellerman declared that this temporary success shouldn't overshadow what Newton has brought to the franchise, even as recently as last season.
"The point is, Cam brings a dimension," Kellerman said. "Don't go back to 2015, go back to the first half of last season...he was better than what we've seen under center for this team this year. And (running back Christian) McCaffrey's hit another level...They have (tight end Greg Olsen) at least back on the field. Cam has the kind of ability where, if he's completing passes at the rate he was last year...he has other things he can do that you can't account for."
Kellerman also believes that having McCaffrey at full strength and in his prime would be a recipe for Carolina success.
"That premium, once the playoffs start, can be the difference. We saw (Carolina) ride Cam plus a defense to a Super Bowl where they were competitive. Now add McCaffrey to that mix, yes, this shows you why they need Cam."
To compare, Newton had tallied 2,235 yards and 19 total touchdowns in the first half of last season, during which Carolina went 6-2. Injuries affected Newton over the rest of the season, as the Panthers sputtered to a 7-9 record and missed the playoffs. This season, Allen has gone 5-2 in Newton's place but has posted pedestrian numbers with 1,612 yards (all but 14 via passing) and 10 touchdowns (all passing). Carolina faces Atlanta at home next Sunday as they continue their playoff push.
Newton will enter the final year of a $103.8 million contract extension inked in 2015. Carolina can save $19 million in cap space if they Newton prior to June 1.