Quarterback Cam Newton, the former NFL Most Valuable Player who guided Carolina to the 2016 Super Bowl, has reached a deal to return to the Panthers, the club announced Thursday.
The 32-year-old, who spent last year with the New England Patriots, agreed to terms to return to the Panthers, who made him the top overall pick of the 2011 NFL Draft, pending a physical.
The Panthers, 4-5 ahead of a trip to NFL overall leaders Arizona (8-1) on Sunday, lost starting quarterback Sam Darnold to a shoulder injury that will sideline him four to six weeks.
That left only backups P.J. Walker and Matt Barkley on the roster, but Newton brings the experience of 139 NFL starts, including nine seasons with Carolina.
Newton was the NFL MVP in the 2015 campaign, when he directed the Panthers to a 15-1 record and a trip to the Super Bowl, where they lost to the Peyton Manning-led Denver Broncos.
Newton is the NFL's all-time leader in rushing touchdowns by a quarterback with 70, including 12 for the Patriots last year in 15 starts.
In his nine seasons with Carolina, Newton set all-time franchise records with 29,041 passing yards, 182 touchdown passes and 58 rushing touchdowns. He ranks third on the Panthers' all-time rushing list with 4,806 yards.
Carolina's defensive unit is among the NFL's best, ranking second overall, fourth in denying rivals on third down conversions and sixth in quarterback sacks.
"My job is to try to win right now," Panthers coach Matt Rhule said Wednesday before the Newton deal.
"Our fans aren't paying money to watch us win in two years. At the same time, you're trying to build a Super Bowl-caliber team. So it's a balancing act of doing what's right long-term and trying to win at the same time."
The Panthers are 1.5 games behind New Orleans for the last play-off position in the National Conference.