Cam Newton's Season Is Over, Where Will He Play in 2020?

Maurice Moton@@MoeMotonFeatured ColumnistNovember 6, 2019

Cam Newton's Season Is Over, Where Will He Play in 2020?

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    Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

    The Carolina Panthers placed Cam Newton on injured reserve because of his slow-healing Lisfranc injury, which ends his 2019 campaign. He hasn't suited up for the team since Week 2 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and the franchise could move in a new direction at quarterback in 2020. 

    In Newton's absence, Carolina has won five of six contests—three with double-digit margins. Kyle Allen scorched the Arizona Cardinals for 261 yards and four touchdowns in his second career start. He's kept the offense viable during his time under center, but the second half of the season will determine the 23-year-old's future.

    The Panthers selected Will Grier in the third round of this year's draft, which adds another variable to the quarterback situation. Will they groom the rookie to eventually take the job? Could Allen show enough to hold on to the position? Is it possible the organization allows Newton to play out the final year of his contract in 2020?

    In a quarterback-driven league, the Panthers at least have options.

    But at the end of the season, Carolina will have a major decision to make concerning the face of the franchise. If Newton is released, he'll have time to contemplate multiple possibilities, as well.

    Let's take a look at potential landing spots for Newton in 2020.

Carolina Panthers

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    Grant Halverson/Getty Images

    General manager Marty Hurney can maintain the status quo for the short term. He doesn't have to move on from Newton. The 30-year-old quarterback has one year left on his deal with a $21 million cap hit, per Spotrac. The Panthers could save $19.1 million if they release him.

    Carolina isn't strapped for cap space going into the 2020 offseason. The club will have approximately $42.9 million at its disposal. If the front office thinks Newton has another All-Pro or Pro Bowl season in him, it could exhaust his deal and delay the decision for another term. 

    Last year, Newton played efficiently under offensive coordinator Norv Turner before a shoulder injury affected his performance in the second half of the campaign. Despite the ailment, he completed a career-high 67.9 percent of his pass attempts while throwing for the second-most first downs (180) in any of his seasons. 

    When healthy, Newton could thrive in Turner's system, but his shoulder and latest foot injury show signs of wear and tear accumulated over nine NFL years.

    If Allen struggles through November and December, Newton may have an opportunity for one last run in Carolina. When healthy, he's still a starting-caliber quarterback who can use his legs and big arm with the size to withstand hits in the pocket. That's a rare combination.

    Should they move away from Newton, the Panthers must either be convinced that he doesn't have much left to offer or that his replacement can keep defenses honest. Running back Christian McCaffrey, who leads the league in yards from scrimmage (1,244), would frequently see eight in the box if the quarterback play isn't at least serviceable.

Chicago Bears

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    Chicago Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky
    Chicago Bears quarterback Mitchell TrubiskyJon Durr/Getty Images

    In 2018, the Chicago Bears emerged as a playoff contender, winning the NFC North with a top-notch defense and an offense that made strides under head coach Matt Nagy. Former Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio then accepted a head-coaching job with the Denver Broncos, but the Bears still field a top-10 unit in points and yards allowed during the 2019 season.

    On the flip side, quarterback Mitchell Trubisky has regressed significantly in his second year under Nagy. He ranks 31st in QBR (31.8) with touchdown passes in just two of his seven starts.

    Although wideout Allen Robinson II has been a bright spot for the 30th-ranked passing attack, hauling in 47 catches for 532 yards and three touchdowns, Trubisky hasn't been able to fully optimize a talented receiving group. Running back Tarik Cohen is the only other Bears pass-catcher with more than 20 receptions.

    Taylor Gabriel's numbers have dropped from last year. Anthony Miller and tight end Trey Burton have faded in the passing game after combining for 87 catches, 992 yards and 13 touchdowns in 2018.

    While watching Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson continue to develop into star playmakers, general manager Ryan Pace must consider a change at quarterback because of Trubisky's giant step backward.

    At 30 years old, Newton would come with injury concerns, but he's a far better signal-caller than Trubisky. He's also comfortable throwing to a pass-catching running back. Cohen isn't Christian McCaffrey, but both significantly elevate the short passing game. Finally, the big-armed quarterback could produce chunk plays with Robinson, Miller and Gabriel going downfield.

    If the Bears had a decent quarterback to pair with their defense, they would return to playoff contention.

    Chicago doesn't have a first- or third-round pick because of the Khalil Mack trade with the Oakland Raiders. Pace could take an aggressive approach and offer one of two second-rounders for Newton or wait to see if the Panthers release him.

Denver Broncos

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    Denver Broncos quarterback Joe Flacco
    Denver Broncos quarterback Joe FlaccoJustin Casterline/Getty Images

    The Broncos and Newton have some history. Denver defeated Carolina in Super Bowl 50, sacking the Panthers quarterback six times and holding him without a touchdown.

    Since signing Peyton Manning during the 2012 offseason, Broncos president of football operations and general manager John Elway has experienced tough luck with his choices at quarterback. He swung and missed with Trevor Siemian, Brock Osweiler, Case Keenum and Joe Flacco under center.

    The Broncos recently placed Flacco on injured reserve with a herniated disc in his neck. He'll turn 35 years old in January and will be coming off two seasons shortened by injury. While healthy, the 12-year veteran didn't provide much spark to the offense, throwing for six touchdowns and five interceptions through eight contests.

    Denver will take a long look at Brandon Allen and possibly rookie second-rounder Drew Lock, who's set to practice, fresh off injured reserve, before Week 11's game against the Minnesota Vikings. 

    Because of Elway's dreadful history picking quarterbacks, he should provide his coaching staff with multiple options at the position, including a proven commodity. The Broncos don't know what they have in Allen or Lock. Newton could serve as the bridge-the-gap signal-caller before the franchise tabs its long-term starter. 

    Like the Bears, the Broncos field a top-10 defense in yards and points allowed. They're also capable of competing for a playoff spot with a decent signal-caller. If Denver could exchange one of its third-round picks for Newton, that would be a win for Elway.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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    Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

    The salt in the hourglass is running low on quarterback Jameis Winston's time in Tampa Bay. Head coach Bruce Arians took over for Dirk Koetter and expressed confidence in the Pro Bowl signal-caller's play, but he recently acknowledged a major flaw.

    "He has a habit of trying to be Superman," Arians said after Winston tossed five interceptions in a 37-26 loss to Carolina. 

    This season, we've witnessed the good and bad in Winston's game, but he continues to make the same mistakes. The five-year veteran has thrown for 16 touchdowns and co-leads the league, along with Baker Mayfield, in interceptions (12).

    Over the last four contests, Winston has seven touchdown passes and seven interceptions, which sums up his career to this point: inconsistent.

    Winston's contract expires at the end of the season. Barring a turnaround in the second half of the year, the Buccaneers will likely move forward with their search for a new quarterback.

    Currently eighth in the 2020 draft order, Tampa Bay isn't guaranteed a shot at the top quarterback prospects in April. General manager Jason Licht may have to settle for a bridge-the-gap option if he's unable to move up for the player of his choice.

    Of course, the Panthers are unlikely to trade Newton within the division, but the Buccaneers should contact the three-time Pro Bowler if Carolina releases him to save $19.1 million in cap space.

    Arians resurrected quarterback Carson Palmer's career in its late stages. The Buccaneers lead skipper could do the same for Newton.

    At 36 years old, Palmer put together a Pro Bowl campaign in 2015. He eclipsed 4,200 yards and 24 touchdowns during three of his five terms with the Arizona Cardinals.

    Newton is much different than Palmer, who was a pure pocket passer. Nevertheless, Arians worked with Ben Roethlisberger during five years as an offensive coordinator in Pittsburgh, and he's less mobile than the Panthers signal-caller but similar in body type and arm talent.

Tennessee Titans

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    Tennessee Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill
    Tennessee Titans quarterback Ryan TannehillBrian Blanco/Associated Press

    The Tennessee Titans have already moved on from quarterback Marcus Mariota, who's struggled to push the ball downfield during his five-year tenure with the team. The offense has shown some life with Ryan Tannehill under center.

    In three starts, Tannehill has thrown for 300 or more yards twice. He also leads the league in completion percentage (71.8). The 31-year-old may keep the Titans competitive for the remainder of the year, but his contract expires in the offseason. 

    On the bright side, Tannehill's serviceable play shows the Titans can push for a playoff spot in the AFC with a solid veteran under center. If the front office doesn't re-sign him because of competition on the free-agent market or it opts to pursue someone else, Newton should list atop the team's potential targets.

    Since 2016, the Titans have been stuck in mediocrity, logging 9-7 records for three consecutive years. Currently 4-5, they'll likely finish with similar results this season. Barring a trade, the front office won't be in a position to draft a top quarterback prospect. In the meantime, it will need a Band-Aid signal-caller. 

    With Mariota likely out the door on an expiring contract and Tannehill's uncertain future, Newton would become an alternative option if available. The Titans shouldn't trade a draft pick for him if they're able to re-sign Tannehill, but general manager Jon Robinson ought to at least consider the All-Pro quarterback.

    Similar to Mariota's, Newton's ability to scramble for chunk yardage would complement the ground attack. Defenses would have to prepare for his strong arm and keep a spy on him to prevent first-down runs. In that scenario, running back Derrick Henry might see less traffic between the tackles, which would bode well for the offense.

             

    2020 draft order courtesy of Tankathon.com. Contract details provided by Spotrac.com

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