Cam Newton had enormous shoes to fill in New England after the departure of Tom Brady. While Newton ultimately wasn’t able to succeed with the Patriots, he still deserves a chance to continue starting in 2021. The former NFL MVP will be 32 years old, and despite some less-than-flashy passing numbers in 2020, Newton still has the ability to help a team win football games as the starting quarterback.
Newton went 7-8 in 15 starts with the Patriots. This was five less wins than Brady led the Patriots in 2019, with a 12-4 record, but Newton wasn’t the only reason for New England’s regression. With many key defensive players opting out due to COVID-19, and even less offensive weapons than the year before, Newton wasn’t operating Brady’s former team, but a shell of it.
I’m not trying to cut excuses for Newton: throwing just eight passing touchdowns against ten interceptions isn’t exactly what you want from a starting quarterback. But if you factor in Newton’s 12 rushing scores and 65.8% completion percentage, you can see Newton can still be productive in the right system.
With the Patriots expected to move on from Newton in the off-season, where should the former Pro Bowler play in 2021? Newton didn’t re-establish himself as a long-term NFL starter in 2020, and may have to take another one-year or short-term deal next season. Here are some potential fits for Newton’s services.
5. Chicago Bears
The Chicago Bears have two decent quarterbacks, but as the old saying goes “when you have two quarterbacks, you have none.” Nick Foles was supposed to be the backup plan to Mitch Trubisky, but Trubisky was far more effective in 2020. However, Trubiksy’s contract will be up in the offseason, and if benching the former North Carolina quarterback despite an undefeated record early in the season, or signing Foles in the first place, wasn’t enough evidence, Chicago is reluctant to commit to Trubisky.
Foles is under contract for two more seasons, at a relatively cheap $4 million price tag. I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see Chicago move on from Trubisky, but would they roll with just Foles and a rookie/unknown in 2021? Probably not.
Enter Cam Newton, and make it a training camp battle. Ideally, Newton would slot in as the eventual starter, with Foles playing backup. With a stout defense, the Bears wouldn’t need Newton to lead the league in passing. But if he can take care of the ball, as well as extend drives with his legs, Chicago could likely grind out many wins and reach the playoffs again in 2021.
4. New York Jets
I didn’t see any other outlets list the New York Jets as a potential landing spot for Newton’s services, and for good reason. The Jets have the second overall pick in the draft, and somewhat of an attachment to Sam Darnold at quarterback. But hear me out: the Jets LOVE to take fliers on veteran quarterbacks in the second half of their careers. Do Brett Favre, Michael Vick, or Ryan Fitzpatrick ring a bell? That’s not even considering the Tim Tebow experiment, so it’s fair to say the Jets have a tendency of going outside the box at quarterback.
Newton would likely come in on a short-term deal, and could be a stop-gap for an incoming rookie quarterback. Or, the Jets could use the second overall pick to upgrade at another position (or trade the pick for more assets) and roll the dice with Darnold and Newton. Or trade Darnold, and have a quarterback room potentially consisting of Justin Fields or Trevor Lawrence and Cam Newton.
It’s not a slam dunk, as the Jets have smarter avenues they can take at the quarterback position. But given their history and desperation for competitiveness, I wouldn’t write off the possibility.
3. New Orleans Saints/Pittsburgh Steelers
This is supposed to be a five-team list, so having two teams in one spot is kind of breaking the rules. But there is some reasoning behind it: neither of these teams have an opening at the quarterback position yet. However, both Drew Brees and Ben Roethlisberger are in the twilight of their careers, and have hinted towards hanging up their cleats sooner rather than later.
If either quarterback retires, it would leave a gaping hole at quarterback for two of the best teams of the 2020 season. Rather than develop a new franchise quarterback and waste their championship window, the New Orleans Saints or Pittsburgh Steelers could explore the option of signing Newton to a short-term deal.
With the ways Sean Payton has been able to use Taysom Hill, having Newton under center could certainly be interesting in New Orleans. And for a Pittsburgh team that has been employed a big, sturdy guy at quarterback for nearly two decades, Newton could step in as the next big sturdy guy.
2. Denver Broncos
The Denver Broncos are built pretty similar to the Chicago Bears: a strong defense, few but solid offensive weapons, and questions at the quarterback position. Drew Lock absolutely deserved to be the starter in 2020, after finishing 2019 with a 4-1 record in some tryout appearances. But this season, Lock managed just a 4-9 record in Denver.
Looking at Lock’s numbers, he’s not exactly progressing either. He completed just 57.3% of his passes in a league where 60% is the new minimum to be considered passable. He tossed a league-leading 15 interceptions.. in just 13 starts. He passed for 16 touchdowns and ran one in himself, but that still pales in comparison to Newton’s 20 total touchdowns in 2020.
With John Elway, one of Lock’s biggest supporters, relieved of his general manager duties, the quarterback could be on thin ice in Denver. With Brett Rypien and Jeff Driskel not appearing to be the answers either, the Broncos could go outside the organization in order to create more competition.
Imagine Tim Tebow’s tenure in Denver: except with a better passer, and one who has taken his team to the Super Bowl with a 5-1 record just five years ago. Five years is a long time in the NFL, but Newton’s experience can’t be understated. He’s a better player than Lock, by a considerable margin, and that’s just talking on-field production in 2020.
Sure, Newton wouldn’t be the quarterback of the next decade for the Broncos. But if Denver wants to win with their current core, Newton would be an instant upgrade over Lock.
1. Washington Football Team
Washington Football Team was perhaps the most surprising playoff team of 2020-21, even if they won the NFC East with a losing record. The team reached the playoffs despite a quarterback carousel, highlighted by Alex Smith but hampered by Dwayne Haskins and Tyler Heincke. Smith could come back in 2021, regardless of Washington’s playoff results. But he’ll be 37 years old with a reconstructed leg, and may not have much football left in the tank. Newton, who will be 32 next season, could take over for a seven-win team that likely could have had a winning record with more consistency at quarterback.
Washington’s young core, including stud defensive end Chase Young, looks ready to compete for the next couple years. They can’t rely on an aging Smith forever, and don’t have the draft position or time to take a gamble on a young quarterback. Newton could fill the position as a versatile veteran: Washington won’t need him to be a Pro Bowler at this point in his career. With the NFC East seemingly up for grabs every year and ripe for the taking, Washington needs some kind of stability at quarterback to compete for the next to two to three seasons.
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Travel and Hiking
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Header Photo Credit: AP Photo/Bill Kostroun