The next step of Cam Newton's NFL career is unknown for a variety of reasons.
The 30-year-old quarterback hit the free-agent market later than others after the Carolina Panthers opted to go with Teddy Bridgewater as their starting quarterback for 2020.
With the quarterback market scant and concerns lingering about his recent injuries, Newton was not immediately swept up. But he is one of three top-tier free agents left on the market along with Jadeveon Clowney and Jameis Winston, both of whom are experiencing similar issues to Newton.
Clowney has faced concerns about his health because of an offseason surgery, while Winston is struggling to find a home as a result of the lack of interest on the quarterback front.
Newton's landing spot is difficult to figure out because a majority of the starting jobs across the NFL have been filled.
The quarterback carousel shuffled Philip Rivers to the Indianapolis Colts, Tom Brady to Tampa Bay and Bridgewater to Carolina. Another hangup Newton faces is the high NFL draft positions of the Miami Dolphins and Los Angeles Chargers. If both teams go after signal-callers in April, they would have a rookie fighting with a veteran for the starting gig.
New England could be viewed as a potential landing spot, but it appears to be moving forward with Jarrett Stidham in the top role. The Athletic's Jeff Howe reported that "it doesn't appear the Patriots have any immediate interest in adding" Newton. While it would be intriguing to see the one-time NFL MVP collaborate with Bill Belichick in New England, the financials do not make sense since the Patriots have minimal salary cap space.
A connection could be drawn to Newton's old head coach Ron Rivera in Washington, but it made a trade with the Panthers for Kyle Allen to fill up its depth chart.
No matter where he lands, Newton will likely have to take a pay cut from the $16.7 million he earned with the Panthers in 2019. The price tag could also be determined by his health, but according to ESPN's Adam Schefter, a recent physical determined Newton's shoulder and foot "are checking out well."
One intriguing destination could be the Jacksonville Jaguars, who are looking for a reliable backup to Gardner Minshew II.
Minshew and Joshua Dobbs are the only Jaguars quarterbacks under contract, and they have enough salary cap space to afford Newton at a reasonable price. Minshew started his rookie season strong, with two touchdown passes in four of five games, but he failed to capture the same magic in the second half of the campaign.
It would not hurt the Jaguars to bring in a former MVP with eight 3,000-yard passing seasons to support Minshew, and if he shows well in training camp, Newton might be able to make the starting job his own.
Prediction: Newton lands with Jacksonville.
ProFootballTalk's Mike Florio reported recently there was "little to no interest elsewhere" in Clowney outside of Seattle.
Florio noted the inability for teams to do in-person physicals as one of the factors getting in the way of a larger market for the pass-rusher. Clowney had offseason surgery on a sports hernia, and if he demands a large contract, it could be hard for some teams to justify bringing him in.
Seattle has the best knowledge of Clowney's medical history since it conducted an end-of-season physical on the 27-year-old.
Clowney had seven tackles for loss and three sacks in 13 games for the Seahawks after he came over in a trade with the Houston Texans. While a return to Seattle would make sense for Clowney, it does not appear a decision will be made soon.
According to Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times, "all appears pretty quiet" on the Clowney front.
Clowney's contract demands could play into the lack of interest, per The Athletic's Stephen Holder:
"But there's a reason Clowney is still unsigned. League sources have bemoaned Clowney's significant contract demands. One front-office source said Clowney is hoping to fetch $21 million a year. That's a ton of cash for a player who has never had more than 9.5 sacks in a single season, even while playing alongside All-Pro J.J. Watt in Houston."
The defensive end made $15 million between the Seahawks and Texans in 2019. His demands are more than the franchise tags handed out to defensive ends this offseason. If there continues to be a lack of interest, the best option may be to return to the Seahawks, who should be in the postseason hunt once again.
Prediction: Clowney returns to Seattle.
Winston could be in a tougher situation than Newton because he has not experienced long-term success in the pocket.
Although he led the NFL with 5,109 passing yards in 2019, he struggled to produce consistent numbers before that. Winston did not hit the 20-touchdown mark in 2017 and 2018, and he went through a dip in passing yards between those two seasons.
Without the benefit of playing under Bruce Arians, Winston's numbers could drop in 2020—if he finds a starting job.
It does not appear Winston will land a No. 1 spot on a depth chart; ESPN's Jeff Darlington called the former No. 1 overall pick's market "ice cold."
The best backup position could be with the Pittsburgh Steelers, with Ben Roethlisberger recovering from an injury and Mason Rudolph failing to shine on a consistent basis in his absence.
Rudolph completed 62.2 percent of his passes and threw 13 touchdowns and nine interceptions over 10 games.
Roethlisberger is 38 and coming off an elbow injury. If he struggles in his recovery, the Steelers would have a reliable backup in place if they were to sign Winston.
In any situation, Winston would be paid far less than the $20.9 million he earned in 2019, but if he wants to go somewhere to further his development, Pittsburgh could be a good fit.
Prediction: Winston ends up in Pittsburgh.