Around the NFC: Free-agent spending paying off for Packers’ defense

Cam’s exit. Carolina shut down quarterback Cam Newton (foot) for the season on Tuesday, placing him on injured reserve to possibly end his time with the Panthers. Newton will be 31 next year and his medical chart includes two shoulder surgeries and the current foot issue. The big thing: Carolina can create $19.1 million of salary cap space by cutting Newton. That money could be re-allocated in part to an eventual new contract for running back Christian McCaffrey. Kyle Allen (5-1 this year), will continue to play in Newton’s place.

Packers’ free-agent boon. Broncos safety Kareem Jackson is saving his team’s March 2019 free-agent splurge because cornerback Bryce Callahan (foot) has missed all nine games and right tackle Ja’Wuan James (knee) has played only 32 snaps. At the opposite end is Green Bay. The Packers signed outside linebackers Za’Darius Smith (Baltimore) and Preston Smith (Washington). Entering Sunday’s game against Carolina, they rank tied for fourth and seventh, respectively, in sacks (8 1/2 and eight) and have a combined 58 tackles.

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Evans starring. Tampa Bay resides in its usual under-the-NFL-radar spot, meaning receiver Mike Evans’ brilliant season is somewhat unknown. Entering Sunday’s game against Arizona, Evans is second in the NFL with 842 receiving yards (New Orleans’ Michael Thomas has 875) and tied with Detroit’s Kenny Golladay for a league-best seven touchdown catches. Where Evans stands out is yards per catch — 16.8. The next-closest among receivers with at least 50 catches is Atlanta’s Julio Jones and Buccaneers teammate Chris Godwin at 14.2 yards per reception. Evans has 198 and 180 yards in his last two games.