Realistic Trade Packages and Landing Spots for Cam Newton
It's a time of great change in Carolina. As the losses mount and another disappointing season unfolds, the Panthers have already jettisoned head coach Ron Rivera.
He won't be alone in leaving.
As Ian Rapoport reported for NFL.com, it's believed that the Panthers will actively shop quarterback Cam Newton in the offseason. Newton's 2019 season was a mess—he played in just two games and didn't throw a touchdown pass before a foot injury ended his season.
Newton is scheduled to have surgery this week on that foot, and it goes without saying that his health will be a major concern for potential suitors. If the Panthers are looking for a bonanza that includes multiple first-rounders, they're likely going to be disappointed. And with a cap hit of just $21.1 million in 2020, it's still a real possibility that the Panthers could decide to hang on to the first overall pick in the 2010 NFL draft.
But there are a handful of teams that have a need at the position that could be motivated enough to offer the Panthers significant draft capital in exchange for Newton's services—including a few that might give up a first-rounder as part of a package.
Los Angeles Chargers: The Philip Rivers Contingency Plan
Panthers receive: 2020 first-round pick, 2021 fourth-round pick
Chargers receive: Cam Newton
We're going to assume a couple of things in this column. Foremost is that a ton of teams won't be lining up to throw first-round picks at the Carolina Panthers—this isn't going to be a Sam Bradford-type situation, where a desperate team overpays to get a quarterback in the spur of the moment.
However, if there's an NFL team that could be in "win now" mode enough to sacrifice a chunk of the future for a shot at success in the present, it's the Los Angeles Chargers.
The Chargers entered the 2019 season with aspirations of a deep playoff run after going 12-4 a year ago. But the Bolts are one of the NFL's biggest underperformers this year—in large part because Philip Rivers has been terrible much of the season. The 38-year old's contract year has been a disaster, with Rivers posting his lowest passer rating in over a decade.
The Chargers have talent at the skill positions and on defense. The offensive line isn't great, but it isn't terrible, either. This is a team that should be a far sight better than 4-8 after 12 games. The window (in theory) is open for the Chargers, but that does them little good if there's no one on the roster who can throw a ball through it.
It's also a Chargers team that's about to move into a brand-new stadium in 2020 and a franchise trying to become relevant in a city that doesn't appear the least bit interested in it. Newton could provide both an upgrade under center and some badly needed buzz.
That Newton's wardrobe is perfect for L.A. is just icing on the cake.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Ending the Jameis Winston Era
Panthers receive: 2020 first-round pick, 2021 fifth-round pick
Buccaneers receive: Cam Newton
Time for assumption No. 2.
The Jameis Winston era is over in Tampa.
Winston's arm talent is unquestioned. Sadly, so is his terrible decision-making with the football. After another reckless showing in Week 14, Winston has now turned the ball over a staggering 104 times in 69 career games. While he topped 450 passing yards in Sunday's win over the Colts, he also threw three more picks.
It's time to move on.
Still, moving on doesn't have to mean starting over from scratch—especially for a team that has the passing game talent Tampa does.
The Buccaneers are certainly familiar enough with Newton. In 14 career starts against Tampa, Newton's won nine games with a plus-seven touchdown-to-interception ratio and a passer rating over 90. The Bucs are also one of three NFL teams Newton's run for over 500 yards against.
Newton's big arm would surely appeal to Buccaneers coach Bruce Arians, who likes to push the ball vertically.
There are two sticking points here. The first is compensation. And odd though it may sound, the more success that Winston enjoys in 2019, the better this deal looks in 2020.
Entering this week, the Buccaneers were sitting at pick No. 14 in the 2020 draft—too far down the board to get a shot at the biggest names under center in next year's class. If that pick makes it into the top 10, the Bucs would be more inclined to keep it. But if it stays where it's at or slides into the back half of the round, its best value for the team may well be as trade bait.
Provided, that is, the Panthers are willing to trade Newton inside the division.
Cincinnati Bengals: Could They Land Chase Young and Cam Newton?
Panthers receive: 2020 second-round pick, 2020 fourth-round pick, 2021 third-round pick
Bengals receive: Cam Newton
The Cincinnati Bengals aren't parting with their first-round pick in next year's draft. No way, no how. Ain't happening, Jack.
And if the Bengals do indeed secure the first overall pick and decide to draft LSU quarterback (and Southern Ohio native) Joe Burrow, there's no need to trade for Newton or anyone else. The team will either just roll the kid out there or subject fans to another half a season of Andy Dalton mediocrity.
However, what if the Bengals don't draft Burrow? What if it's Ohio State edge-rusher Chase Young instead? Or the Bengals flip the pick to another QB-needy team for a package of picks the franchise can use to fill the umpteen holes on the roster?
If that's the case, the notion of acquiring Newton makes a lot of sense in Cincinnati. The benching of Dalton earlier this season sent a pretty clear message that the Red Rifle isn't the future in the Queen City. The Bengals have a fair amount of skill-position talent, and the offensive line should be better in 2020 provided it can stay healthy for more than 10 minutes.
The Panthers wouldn't be getting back the Round 1 pick they no doubt covet, but a pick at the top of Round 2 is almost as good. Carolina also wouldn't have to worry about facing its former MVP quarterback with any regularity.
Come on, Mike Brown. Make a splash move. There's a first time for everything.
Denver Broncos: Can They Fully Trust Drew Lock?
Panthers receive: 2020 second-round pick, 2020 third-round pick, 2021 second-round pick
Broncos receive: Cam Newton
Had rookie Drew Lock not had the success he's enjoyed over his first two starts, the Denver Broncos might have been the first team listed in this column. Denver's tried everything short of growing a quarterback in a lab since Peyton Manning hung them up, and to date, the results have been…let's go with uninspiring.
Maybe Lock's the guy. If nothing else, as it stands today, John Elway's desperation level has ratcheted down a couple of notches. But the pressure's still mounting to turn things around as the Broncos head toward a third straight 10-loss season for the first time in half a century. And two starts don't guarantee anything where Lock's future is concerned.
Of course, there's also no guarantee Newton's ever going to be the quarterback whom the Broncos stopped one game short of a ring in Super Bowl 50. But assuming that the surgery and rehab goes well, we're still talking about a quarterback who will only be 31 years old when the 2020 season begins.
In theory, Newton's still got a lot of football ahead of him. His ceiling is sky-high. And that choking desperation to win in the Mile High City is more than enough motivation to justify dealing three Day 2 picks in a package for Newton.
That package may not look especially appealing to the Panthers at first. But both of those second-rounders should be in the top 50, and it's entirely possible that the market for Newton just isn't going to be robust enough to net the team a Day 1 selection.
Indianapolis Colts: The Missing Piece for a Playoff Contender
Panthers receive: 2020 first-round pick, 2021 fifth-round pick
Colts receive: Cam Newton
Or maybe it will be.
In many respects, the best-case scenario for the Carolina Panthers is finding a trade partner that feels like Newton could be the missing piece—the one player who could put them over the top and into the postseason.
Right now, the Indianapolis Colts look to be the most likely candidate to fit that bill. After falling in Tampa in Week 14, the reeling Colts have lost three in a row and dropped under .500 for the first time since a Week 1 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers.
Jacoby Brissett isn't solely to blame for the Colts' problems over the past few weeks. But there's no denying that his performance over the second half of the season hasn't been especially good. Brissett completed just 19 of 36 passes Sunday, and his passer rating has been below 80 in three of the last four weeks.
Brissett's OK—but that's all he is. The two-year, $30 million contract the Colts handed Brissett earlier this year didn't appear ill-advised at the time. That was then. This is now.
The Colts have all the pieces necessary to make some noise in the playoffs. Offensive weaponry. Arguably the best offensive line in the game. Young talent on defense. What they don't have is a quarterback who can take over a game. Brissett's become more of a hindrance than help.
Newton would be a sizable upgrade in Indy at the game's most important position. The team has the most cap space (per Over the Cap) of any team in the league.
And given that Indy's first pick will be in the middle of Round 1, parting with it to get that missing piece should be a palatable enough idea.