The Best Potential Landing Spots for Cam Newton in 2021
In 2020, Cam Newton started a new chapter of his career with the New England Patriots after the Carolina Panthers released him in March. Statistically, he had his worst season when playing a majority of the games, but there were some positives.
Newton didn't throw a touchdown in nine out of his 15 games and finished with eight passing scores and 10 interceptions. On the flip side, he played a big role in the club's fourth-ranked ground attack, rushing for 592 yards and 12 touchdowns.
Despite his rough stretches as a passer, Newton had a glass-half-full perspective when asked about a potential future in New England during the team's Week 17 postgame presser.
"I can't really speak on it right now, but just my whole time here in New England has been a blessing," Newton said. "I've learned so much about myself, about great teammates, unbelievable coaching. Yeah, so I just see how it goes, go from there."
According to ESPN's Adam Schefter (h/t WEEI's Ryan Hannable), the Patriots and Newton expect to go separate ways this offseason. ESPN's Mike Reiss gave the quarterback a 25 percent chance of a return.
Newton avoided a major injury through the 2020 term, and he's still a dynamic threat in spots. The 31-year-old should generate some interest on the open market while healthy.
If not the Patriots, which teams are the best fits for Newton? Where could he compete for a starting job? Let's take a look at four landing spots.
The Chicago Bears will retain general manager Ryan Pace and head coach Matt Nagy for at least another year, which doesn't bode well for Mitchell Trubisky, who threw for 2,055 yards, 16 touchdowns and eight interceptions in 10 games.
While announcing the return of Pace and Nagy, Bears chairman George McCaskey made it clear that he wants to see more out of the quarterback position.
"It's pretty clear we need better production from the quarterback position to be successful," McCaskey said, per NFL Network's Mike Garafolo.
According to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, Trubisky likely needed some playoff success to remain with the team beyond this season. The Bears lost in the Wild Card Round to the New Orleans Saints.
Pace is going into the final year of his contract, while Nagy has two terms left on his deal. They are both on the hot seat with the pressure to find a solid starting quarterback and win right away.
Nick Foles remains on the roster, with a contract on the books through the 2022 campaign. In 2020, he struggled, throwing for 1,852 yards, 10 touchdowns and eight interceptions before a hip injury sidelined him for Week 12.
Although Foles logged two full practices in Week 13, Trubisky continued to start in his place for the remainder of the season.
If Chicago allows Trubisky to walk, Cam Newton could become a veteran option who leads the Bears back to the playoffs. At 31 years old, he's not a young franchise quarterback, but the 6'5", 245-pound signal-caller is still dynamic with the ability to threaten defenses with his arm and his legs.
Newton may see an improvement in his passing numbers with wide receiver Anthony Miller and two high-upside rookies in second-round tight end Cole Kmet and fifth-round wideout Darnell Mooney, who ranked second on the team in receptions (61) and yards (631) this season. The Bears can make an offer to re-sign impending free-agent wideout Allen Robinson II.
While Newton starts and helps the Bears win games, Nagy can groom a young quarterback from the draft to take over in the near future.
The Denver Broncos could move on from quarterback Drew Lock for three reasons.
First, Lock hasn't established himself as the future in Denver. Head coach Vic Fangio didn't speak of him as the unquestioned starter for the 2021 campaign. He said he "can be" in the mix but mentioned the quarterback's need for improvement, per Andrew Mason of DNVR.
Fangio's operative word, "can," allows the team some flexibility for its plan under center.
Secondly, Fangio will head into the 2021 term with something to prove as well. He's 12-20 as the Broncos' head coach. After two losing seasons, the 62-year-old needs a winning campaign.
Although Elway remains "high" on Lock, he'll allow Paton to evaluate the position.
Paton previously served as the Minnesota Vikings' vice president of player personnel and assistant general manager. Without preexisting ties to Lock, he could look for veteran or rookie competition to push the incumbent for the starting job.
Despite Newton's subpar passing statistics (eight touchdowns and 10 interceptions), he helped lead the Patriots to a 7-9 season without a strong supporting cast of offensive playmakers. Julian Edelman missed 10 games after undergoing knee surgery. Jakobi Meyers was the only Patriots pass-catcher to record at least 50 receptions and 605 receiving yards in 2020.
In Denver, Newton would have Courtland Sutton if he fully recovers from a torn ACL, as well as Jerry Jeudy, Tim Patrick and KJ Hamler at wide receiver. There's also pass-catching tight Noah Fant, who led the Broncos in receptions (62) for the 2020 term, and a decent ground attack that ranked 13th in rushing yards.
While healthy, Newton could help the offense finish better than 23rd in yards and 28th in points.
New Orleans Saints
Following an NFC divisional-round loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the New Orleans Saints may have to look for Drew Brees' successor.
In December, on the Huddle & Flow podcast with NFL Network's Jim Trotter, Saints head coach Sean Payton said that quarterbacks Taysom Hill and Jameis Winston will have a chance to take over the starting job once Brees steps away from the game.
An open competition, however, could allow someone else to join the position battle. Winston is set to become an unrestricted free agent and may sign elsewhere if a better situation arises during free agency.
Newton can return to the NFC South and compete for a lead role on a team with two star playmakers in wide receiver Michael Thomas and running back Alvin Kamara. In Carolina, the former Panthers quarterback played with a talent similar to Kamara in Christian McCaffrey, who's also a rushing and pass-catching threat out of the backfield.
Winston only completed seven of 11 passes for 75 yards with the Saints this season. As a starter through a five-game stretch, Hill fumbled eight times and lost four. With a full offseason, Newton can surpass both of them at an unsettled position.
With Newton, the Saints would have someone who started for most of the 2020 campaign and, even with his ability to run the ball, lost just one fumble. As a three-time Pro Bowler, 2015 league MVP and experienced starter, he's a solid bridge-gap quarterback option for New Orleans with its high-end offensive skill players.
Washington Football Team
Leading up to a Week 16 game against his former team, Washington head coach Ron Rivera thought about what could've been if Newton had stayed healthy during their shared time with the Panthers.
"I do. I honestly do," Rivera said, per Alaina Getzenberg of the Charlotte Observer. "He's the kind of guy that when he was healthy and things were rolling, man, the momentum would build."
Rivera could see what a healthy version of Newton looks like in Washington. He only missed one game during the 2020 campaign because he tested positive for COVID-19.
Newton didn't suffer any major injuries during the term, so he could focus solely on preparation for the next season without a rehab schedule.
In Washington, Rivera may need a healthy body at quarterback. Alex Smith missed the team's wild-card matchup with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers because of a calf injury that sidelined him for Weeks 15 and 16 as well. He's on the books through the 2022 term, but the 36-year-old signal-caller hasn't committed to playing for the 2021 season.
In November, Kyle Allen dislocated his ankle and underwent surgery. He's an exclusive rights free agent this offseason. The Football Team can retain him on a one-year tender, but no one knows how or if Allen will bounce back after a significant injury.
As a restricted free agent, Taylor Heinicke told The Sports Junkies radio show that he'd like to stay in Washington (h/t Jami Frankenberry of The Virginian-Pilot). He had a decent showing in the club's Wild Card Round loss to the Buccaneers, throwing for 306 yards, a touchdown and an interception.
In the event Smith returns, the Football Team could roll with him, Allen and Heinicke until they find their franchise quarterback.
Nevertheless, Newton could replace Smith as the most proven signal-caller on the roster if the three-time Pro Bowler hangs up his cleats. Washington offensive coordinator Scott Turner worked with Newton between the 2018 and 2019 terms as the Panthers quarterbacks coach, so the two could jell quickly if the Football Team considers the 31-year-old as a free-agent option.
Player contract details courtesy of Over the Cap.