Cam Newton and rookie Mac Jones spent the 2021 preseason duking it out for the right to be the New England Patriots’ Week 1 starter at the quarterback position. Newton […]
Cam Newton and rookie Mac Jones spent the 2021 preseason duking it out for the right to be the New England Patriots’ Week 1 starter at the quarterback position. Newton preformed admirably in the preseason, earning the spot in the eyes of many fans. However, the Patriots shocked the NFL world on Monday morning by not only giving the opening day nod to Jones, but by cutting Newton from the team completely.
The move can be interpreted in a number of ways, but it seems the Patriots wanted to give the former MVP the opportunity to choose his next destination instead of backing up Jones or being traded to another team.
It might seem like just yesterday Newton was among the best quarterbacks in the league, but 2021-22 will be his sixth season after his historic 2015-16 campaign. That year, he led the Carolina Panthers to a 15-1 record and a Super Bowl berth, taking home MVP and first team All-Pro honors.
The next few seasons in Carolina featured some up-and-down play, and ultimately an injury-shortened 2019-20 season was his last with the team that drafted him first overall out of Auburn.
Last season’s showing with the Patriots was a mixed bag, prompting New England to draft Alabama quarterback Mac Jones with the 15th overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. Newton went 7-8 as a starter last season, throwing just eight touchdown passes against 10 interceptions. While Newton may be a couple years past his physical prime as a rusher, he still showed a down of value as a dual-threat quarterback: 137 carries (second-most in is career,) 592 yards, and 12 touchdowns (most since his rookie season) on the ground.
Long story short, while Newton isn’t an MVP-caliber player at this point his career, he’s a capable starter that could lead the right team to success in his 11th year in the NFL.
Where could Newton land? Would any teams be willing to insert him as a starter right away? Would Newton be accepting of a backup or even hybrid role with the right organization? Here are seven realistic landing spots, along with five more long-shots, for Newton’s services following his departure from the Patriots.
Washington Football Team
Washington Football Team makes a lot of sense for Newton on paper. Washington was a playoff team last season, and has the roster to do it again in 2021-22. Alex Smith, last year’s starter, is now retired, and even though the team went out and got Ryan Fitzpatrick in the offseason, there’s some doubt Fitzpatrick can be consistent over a 17-game season. Fitzpatrick has bouts of excellent play, often followed up by poor, head-scratching performances. If Washington Football Team is serious about contending for back-to-back NFC East crowns, insurance at the quarterback position would make a lot of sense.
This would reunite Newton with his former Panthers coach, Ron Rivera, but that’s also where the catch is. Rivera could have signed Newton last season, or earlier this year when his one-year deal with the Patriots expired. If Rivera wanted Newton, quite frankly, he would’ve made a move for him by now.
The Denver Broncos already have two serviceable quarterbacks in Teddy Bridgewater, who they had to trade for, and Drew Lock. Adding Newton to the mix wouldn’t make too much sense, unless the franchise wants to move on completely from Lock and roll with Bridgewater and Newton.
Newton is a better quarterback than Lock any day of the week. But Newton is only better than Bridgewater on his best days. Bridgewater is a much more consistent quarterback, and even if the Broncos did sign Newton, Bridgewater would likely remain the starter moving forward.
However, if Denver is willing to roll the dice and go all-in, Newton’s ceiling is slightly higher than Bridgewater’s. Specifically, Newton’s capabilities as a runner could complement the Broncos methodical offense and keep long drives alive. As a defensive-minded team, this would be a valuable asset over the course of the season.
Newton also has a playing connection in Broncos offensive coordinator Mike Shula, who coached Newton during his immaculate 2015 campaign.
While Newton could compete for playing time in Washington or Denver, here’s a team where his role as backup quarterback would be obvious. Dak Prescott, when healthy, is among the most talented passers in the NFL. He was literally on pace to break the single-season passing record last year, but went down in Week 5 and was out for the rest of the season.
Prescott will be back under center for the Cowboys in 2021, but some insurance at the position couldn’t hurt. The only other quarterback on the Cowboys roster is Cooper Rush, which doesn’t exactly instill confidence if Prescott were to go down. Last year, the Cowboys had Andy Dalton, arguably one of the best backups in the league. Assuming Newton would accept a backup role, the Cowboys would be one of the best destinations to do so.
While most of the teams on this list are purely out of speculation, the Cowboys are reportedly doing their “due diligence” on Newton after his release. The Cowboys just released a pair of quarterbacks of their own in Garrett Gilbert and Ben DiNucci. Between Prescott’s return from injury and the landscape of the NFL due to COVID-19, having three quarterbacks on the roster (and having a backup better than Cooper Rush) would make a lot of sense for Dallas.
The elephant in the Houston Texans’ quarterback room is DeShaun Watson and his sexual misconduct allegations that have yet to be cleared heading into the 2021-22 season. To be honest, I don’t completely comprehend where the situation stands at this point in time: Watson hasn’t been suspended by the NFL, the Texans list him third on their depth chart, and Houston has also tried to trade Watson.
It’s a confusing time for the Texans, and the best option might be to cut ties with Watson completely. That is, of course, a tall order though, as Watson is a Top 10 quarterback in the league with off-the-field issues to the side.
Tyrod Taylor will be the Texans quarterback if Watson can’t play, and he’s certainly not the worst option in the league. Newton does offer more upside though, and while Houston might not be the most competitive team in the league, I think the Texans would win more games with Newton under center than Watson.
If the Texans keep Watson but don’t play him, a quarterback room of Taylor, Newton, and Watson would certainly be interesting, as all three players can make plays with their arms as well as their legs. If Watson is cut from the team, traded, or suspended, the Texans would quickly become one of the most logical landing spots for Newton’s services. Even if Taylor starts Week 1, Newton could get his chance to earn the job over the course of the season, auditioning for the full-time role next year or showcasing his talents to his next team.
One of the most intriguing destinations for Newton would be a Patriots AFC East rival, the Miami Dolphins. Miami had a great season last year, finishing 10-6 and missing the playoffs only on tiebreakers. The Dolphins success was split between veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick and rookie Tua Tagovailoa.
With Fitzpatrick moving on to Washington, Tagovailoa slots in as the full-time starter. Tagovailoa went 6-3 as a starter last season, a good mark, but he wasn’t always the reason the Dolphins won their games. As an NFL passer, Tagovailoa still has some work to do. The rookie tossed 11 touchdown passes across nine starts, and averaged a measly 6.3 yards per attempt. Miami has weapons on offense if Tagovailoa can’t push the ball down field.
Now, the Dolphins do have Jacoby Brissett as their #2 quarterback, and Brissett has both a bigger arm and some starting experience in the league. In that regard, Newton’s services may not be needed at this time: the Dolphins want to roll with Tagovailoa and Brissett is a solid backup. However, the Dolphins have been linked to DeShaun Watson as a potential trade suitor. If Miami wants to go big at quarterback, Newton could come in as the backup quarterback and compete for the starting position should Tagovailoa falter.
An added wrinkle? Newton could help the Dolphins beat the Patriots this season with his knowledge of New England’s offensive playbook.
In some of these landing spots, Newton could be a solid backup option “if” the starting quarterback goes down. With the Indianapolis Colts, it’s less a matter of “if,” but rather “when” Carson Wentz is unavailable.
Wentz is a talented quarterback, but struggles to stay on the field. Heading in to the season, Wentz is battling a foot injury, and most recently, a positive COVID test. The Colts current backup is former University of Washington quarterback Jacob Eason, in his second year in the league. Newton would be a huge upgrade over Eason, for a team that needs insurance at the position perhaps more than other one in the league.
The Colts have a well-rounded roster, and have performed surprisingly well in the post-Andrew Luck era. Whether it’s been Jacoby Brissett or Philip Rivers at quarterback, Indianapolis hasn’t missed a beat. Eason, on the other hand, would likely result in regression for a Colts team that has playoff aspirations. Signing Newton would keep the Colts competitive all season long, and besides an injury replacement option, could even push Wentz for playing time if he underperforms.
Before we get into the fringe possibilities, the Baltimore Ravens are the seventh and final team that make real sense for Newton’s services. This is a backup situation through and through, as Lamar Jackson has been one of the most successful quarterbacks in the league over the last few seasons. If Newton is willing to accept a backup position, there’s no better place to do so than with the Ravens.
Besides the chance to ride the bench to a potential Super Bowl ring, Newton makes a lot of sense as a backup to the speedy Jackson. Newton and Jackson’s running styles aren’t identical, as Jackson prefers using his speed in open space while Newton can plow through lines like a running back. But it’s still natural to back up a running quarterback with another one that can use his legs. Sorry Trace McSorely, but Newton would be a better backup option as both a passer and runner. Robert Griffin III filled this role over the last couple seasons, performing admirably in a couple spot starts. In an ideal situation, Newton would only be called upon after the Ravens have locked up their playoff seed, and he could light up the scoreboard in a Week 17 or 18 appearance just like Griffin did.
It’s unclear how many teams in the league are willing to even attempt having two quarterbacks in the backfield (ala the New Orleans Saints) but the prospect of Jackson and Newton on the field at the same time would be terrifying for opposing defenses. With both quarterbacks possessing big arms and running abilities, there’s no limit to the offensive potential that duo would bring. The 6-foot-4, 245-pound Newton could even be a receiving threat (again, ala Taysom Hill and the Saints,) and he even caught a touchdown pass last season.
Again, the Ravens might not be inclined to ever have Jackson and Newton share the field, as juicy as the prospect sounds. But even as a traditional backup, Baltimore would be a great landing spot for Newton.
- Carolina Panthers: A reunion with his former team seems highly unlikely, especially as Carolina traded for New York Jets quarterback Sam Darnold in the offseason. The Panthers are set to roll with Darnold as their Week 1 starter, but have also been linked to DeShaun Watson in trade rumors. There’s not many teams where Newton could come in and be a clear upgrade over the current starter: but the Panthers just happen to be one of them.
- Pittsburgh Steelers: Ben Roethlisberger is in the twilight of his career. Pittsburgh already has Dwayne Haskins and Mason Rudolph on the roster, so adding Newton to the mix this late in the game doesn’t make a ton of sense. Newton would be a solid backup to 39-year-old Big Ben, and an improvement over Haskins and Rudolph, but again, the Steelers probably aren’t looking to shake up their quarterback room heading into the regular season.
- New Orleans Saints: Jameis Winston is the clear-cut starter in New Orleans, and while Taysom Hill was briefly in consideration, he’s not a true NFL passer. Newton as a backup to Winston would make more sense in the event Winston is unable to play at any point this season. Sean Payton could also potentially use Newton in unique ways, keeping defenses on their toes and using Newton and Hill as dynamic weapons.
- New York Giants: This kind of signing would be quite uncharacteristic for the Giants, who have employed basically two quarterbacks for the past 17 seasons. But if Joe Judge and the Giants want to go all in, Newton could be a valuable addition to the team. Let Daniel Jones start for now, but if he continues to be a turnover machine and the Giants start losing, hand Newton the reigns while the season is still salvageable. Mike Glennon isn’t putting pressure on Jones at quarterback, but Newton would give the Giants a viable second option if Jones isn’t working. I would make this move if I was Giants general manager David Gettlmeman.
- New York Jets: On the other side of MetLife Stadium is the New York Jets. Contrary to the Giants situation, I wouldn’t make this signing if I was Jets first-year general manager Joe Douglas. But thinking back to the players the Jets have given a chance in the past at quarterback: Brett Favre, Michael Vick, Tim Tebow, signing Newton would be pretty on brand. He would be a huge upgrade over current backup Josh Johnson, but the Jets would be better off letting second overall pick Zach Wilson learn and grow without a former MVP breathing down his shoulder. The Jets aren’t in win-now mode, so this signing wouldn’t make sense, and even though Douglas has done nothing to imply he would make such a move, I still can’t put it past the Jets organization.
- Wait for an injury opening: There are plenty of teams that have no need for Newton right now that would suddenly become very interested if their starting quarterback went down. Newton may not want to play the waiting game, wasting weeks of his age-32 season at home, but if he wants to guarantee himself playing time, this might be the best option.
See Also on Cam Newton
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- 2021-22 NFL Predictions: NFC North
- 2021-22 NFL Predictions: NFC East
- 2021-22 NFL Predictions: AFC West
- 2021-22 NFL Predictions: AFC South
- 2021-22 NFL Predictions: AFC North
- 2021-22 NFL Predictions: AFC East
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