It was the impending future of quarterback Dwayne Haskins Jr. that stopped him from trying to do so. Speaking to 670 The Score in Chicago on Monday, Rivera explained signing Newton likely could have happened if it hadn't threatened Haskins' development.
"If the circumstances had allowed us, I would not have had an issue with that," Rivera said (h/t Mike DePrisco of NBC Sports Washington). "I would've been very confident and comfortable going after him and bringing him to be part of what we're doing here."
Rivera's claim may come off a bit dubious given the first few moves he made after Washington hired him.
On March 24, three months after Rivera was hired, Washington traded for quarterback Kyle Allen from Carolina, giving up a fifth-round pick. Allen played 13 games under Rivera last season with Newton injured, passing for 3,322 yards, 17 touchdowns and 16 interceptions.
Newton is certainly not without question marks. After two consecutive injury-plagued years ended his run in Carolina this offseason, the 2015 MVP first needs to prove he's healthy enough to stay on the field before he attempts to revamp his career.
But that's not what concerned Rivera. Instead it was making sure Haskins, the No. 15 overall pick in 2019, had an opportunity to impress his new coaches.
"That's the benefit of being a new head coach is that we can be patient," Rivera said. "We can put these guys through workouts and get to know what we have and feel good about it or don't feel good about it. Then we have to go out and make some changes, but until we get that opportunity to know what we have, it would've been very hard to bring a guy in who's had such a solid career, who was a league MVP at one time and expect the young guy to get his chances to grow."
The New England Patriots, who agreed to sign Newton on Sunday evening, are in a similar situation.
Following the departure of Tom Brady to Tampa Bay, the team acquired Newton on a minimum deal to compete for the starting job alongside Brian Hoyer and Jarrett Stidham, whom New England took in the fourth round last year.
Stidham was seen as Brady's heir apparent until the Newton signing despite having only thrown four NFL passes in his career.
Haskins, meanwhile, started seven games in 2019, completing 58.6 percent of his passes for 1,365 yards, seven touchdowns and seven interceptions.