Best Potential Landing Spots for Cam Newton Following Patriots Release

Maurice Moton@@MoeMotonFeatured ColumnistAugust 31, 2021

FILE - New England Patriots quarterback Cam Newton (1) is shown during the first half of an NFL preseason football game against the New York Giants in East Rutherford, N.J., in this Sunday, Aug. 29, 2021, file photo. The Patriots released quarterback Cam Newton on Tuesday, Aug. 31, 2021, clearing the way for rookie Mac Jones to open the season as New England's quarterback, according to a person with knowledge of the move. The person spoke to the Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the decision has not been announced. (AP Photo/Noah K. Murray, File)
Noah K. Murray/Associated Press

The final round of roster cuts can shake up the NFL. Early Tuesday, the New England Patriots served up the first surprise, releasing quarterback Cam Newton and starting a new era with Mac Jones.

Among those present at Patriots training camp, NBC Sports' Tom Curran didn't seem stunned by New England's decision to start Jones over Newton.

 "Jones has been better," Curran wrote. "At almost every practice. Arguably in each of the three preseason games." 

While a transition to Jones isn't an ultimate shocker after head coach Bill Belichick refused to name a starter after the preseason, Newton didn't list as a strong roster-cut candidate.

So, what's next for a 32-year-old quarterback on the decline, coming off his worst passing season with just eight touchdowns and 10 interceptions? Newton didn't light up defenses during the preseason either, completing 14 of 21 pass attempts for 162 yards, a touchdown and an interception. 

Last week, Newton missed practices because of a "misunderstanding" with testing outside of the Patriots facility. He had to test negative for five days before rejoining the team, which indicates he's not vaccinated, per league COVID-19 protocols. Teams will likely take that status into consideration.

At this point, nine days before the 2021 season opener, Newton isn't going to start for any team in Week 1. He'll likely settle for a backup job on a modest contract. Where could he land? Three teams can offer an ideal situation for him in which he could provide a boost to a borderline playoff squad.


Dallas Cowboys

Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott
Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak PrescottChristian Petersen/Getty Images

The Dallas Cowboys held Dak Prescott out of preseason action while he dealt with soreness in his right shoulder. He's also coming back from two ankle surgeries. ESPN's Adam Schefter thinks Prescott will play at less than 100 percent for the entire 2021 season (h/t Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio).

While Prescott told NFL Network's Tom Pelissero that he'll be 100 percent for the year, the Cowboys should add veteran insurance. 

Right now, Cooper Rush has a stronghold on the primary backup job. Owner Jerry Jones pointed to the fifth-year signal-caller's "consistency" and command of the offense as reasons for his spot on the depth chart.

However, according to NFL insider Josina Anderson, the Cowboys will do their "due diligence" on Newton.

Like Prescott, Newton can move in and out of the pocket to extend plays if necessary. He's also an experienced starter who could take over the huddle if the former isn't able to stay healthy.

Last season, the Cowboys didn't have key offensive linemen for long stretches because of injuries. Left tackle Tyron Smith missed 14 games, Zack Martin sat out for six outings and right tackle La'el Collins didn't play in a single contest. If that trend continues, Dallas may need a quarterback who can take hits near the goal line in case Prescott isn't fully comfortable in those situations with his surgically repaired ankle.

Though Newton had several subpar passing performances in 2020, he made major contributions to the Patriots' fourth-ranked ground attack, rushing for 592 yards and 12 touchdowns. Perhaps he can play in a Taysom Hill-like role if Prescott isn't quite at full health.


Arizona Cardinals

Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray
Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler MurrayAbbie Parr/Getty Images

The Arizona Cardinals should consider Newton because he's a closer match to Kyler Murray's skill set than Colt McCoy and more experienced than Chris Streveler.

Last season, Murray played through a shoulder injury that impacted his performance on the field. He told ESPN's Josh Weinfuss that the issue affected his throwing delivery:

"I had a little shoulder deal during the season which caused me to kind of get out of whack as far as mechanically, throwing the ball and stuff like that, which, I was fine, but I want to get back to myself. If you go back and you watch my college highlights and then if you go watch this past year's highlights, my release is a lot longer due to me having to deal with being a little hurt, banged up."

While we can commend Murray for pushing through pain and inconvenience, he struggled mightily in the last two regular-season games with a chance at the playoffs on the line. The Cardinals signal-caller threw for 334 yards and an interception between Weeks 16 and 17. Arizona lost its final two contests and dropped to 8-8.

At 5'10", 207 pounds, Murray must protect his body, but he's effective on the move and takes a lot of hits during the course of a full season. The dual-threat quarterback has recorded 226 carries for 1,363 yards and 15 touchdowns in two campaigns. Perhaps Newton can take some of the rushing workload off him in a hybrid quarterback-running back role.

The Cardinals have running backs Chase Edmonds and James Conner to lead the ground attack if Murray has limitations because of bumps and bruises, but Newton can threaten defenses with his ability to throw downfield. Again, he'd mirror Hill's role with the New Orleans Saints, minus the pass-catching opportunities.


New York Giants

New York Giants quarterback Daniel Jones
New York Giants quarterback Daniel JonesAdam Hunger/Associated Press

Daniel Jones is going into a crucial third term with the New York Giants. Last season, he threw for just 11 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. This year, the 24-year-old has to take a significant leap to prove he's the present and future at quarterback for Big Blue.

Jones has a full deck of weapons with Kenny Golladay, Darius Slayton, Sterling Shepard, Kadarius Toney and Evan Engram in the pass-catching group, but what if he doesn't optimize those playmakers?

In a wide-open division that sent a 7-9 team to the playoffs for a home game last year, New York can win the NFC East with a decent quarterback. If Jones takes a step back and the Giants bench him, the coaching staff would turn to Mike Glennon.

Since 2018, Glennon has started in five games, all last year with the Jacksonville Jaguars, and threw for 1,072 yards, seven touchdowns and five interceptions. Newton would be an immediate upgrade with a quality group of weapons around him, which is a stark difference from what he had in New England with Jakobi Meyers as his top pass-catcher last year.

Giants general manager Dave Gettleman held the same position with the Carolina Panthers when Newton reached his peak between 2013 and 2017 with the NFC South club. During that four-year stretch, he earned MVP honors (2015) and made two Pro Bowls, a first-team All-Pro roster and a trip to Super Bowl 50.

Newton could potentially preserve Gettleman's job if his top 2019 draft pick, Jones, fails to establish himself at the most important position.