The memorable Cam Newton era with the Carolina Panthers is officially over.
Newton had a record-setting rookie season, plenty of great runs and last-minute throws, Superman celebrations and the magical 2015 season. And he’s just 30 years old, hitting the open market for the first time since he was looking for an FBS home out of Blinn College.
Unfortunately for Newton, there aren’t many teams looking for a quarterback. Ask Jameis Winston, who is unsigned. Or the Cincinnati Bengals, who haven’t traded Andy Dalton. Most teams are set or have talked themselves into someone.
Newton is presumably going to land somewhere, and BetMGM in New Jersey is offering odds on which team will land the former Heisman Trophy winner and NFL MVP:
The reasonable long shots: Broncos +1600, Raiders +2500, Steelers +2500
No need to waste time on most NFL teams in this conversation, so we’re not even listing those listed at 40-to-1 or longer odds. But there might be some value in at least one of these three teams.
The Denver Broncos are an odd inclusion. They are happy with Drew Lock, who had a nice finish to his rookie season. It wouldn’t make sense to sign Newton, who’s no sure thing coming off foot surgery and has a lot of wear and tear on his body after the Panthers used him so much as a runner. And the Pittsburgh Steelers would be wise to get some insurance in case Ben Roethlisberger really isn’t better than ever after major elbow surgery, but Roethlisberger takes up too much salary cap to invest in a high-end backup like Newton. So the Steelers seem very unlikely.
But the Las Vegas Raiders? Maybe. The Raiders signed Marcus Mariota, but Mariota can back up Newton just as well as he can back up Derek Carr. If the Raiders think Newton is an upgrade, he would also be a huge star in the new Las Vegas market, checking two boxes. Let’s keep them in mind.
Washington Redskins +500
I get why Washington is this high on the list. Ron Rivera coached Newton in Carolina, has familiarity with him, and the Redskins can’t be too sold on Dwayne Haskins. A Newton gamble would allow them to take Chase Young over Tua Tagovailoa in the draft while feeling they’ve done something at quarterback. But why would Washington, in a total rebuild, move away from a young quarterback like Haskins (or Tagovailoa) to start Newton? What would that really accomplish?
New England Patriots +450
My guess is this is the team that gets the most action. You may have heard that Tom Brady left for Tampa Bay. And before we assume the Patriots and Newton aren’t a fit, here’s what Bill Belichick said about Newton in 2017:
“I think when you’re talking about mobile quarterbacks, guys that are tough to handle, tackle, can throw, run, make good decisions — I mean, I would put Newton at the top of the list,” Belichick said, according to NBC Sports Boston.
“Not saying that there aren’t a lot of other good players that do that, but I would say, of all the guys we play or have played recently in the last couple of years, he’s the hardest guy to deal with. He makes good decisions. He can run. He’s strong. He’s hard to tackle. He can do a lot of different things, beat you in a lot of different ways. We saw that in the game down there in ’13, so I would put him at the top of the list.
“Not saying the other guys aren’t a problem, because they are, but he’s Public Enemy No. 1.”
Sure, coaches say nice things about opponents. That doesn’t mean the Patriots will sign Newton. But let’s all agree he’s better than Brian Hoyer or Jarrett Stidham.
Jacksonville Jaguars +350
Another rebuilding team that has a young, cheap quarterback who they need to get a long look at. I don’t get why the Jaguars would sign Newton, though it’s not an organization that is known for its shrewd moves at quarterback. Gardner Minshew II showed enough as a rookie that the Jaguars need to take a longer look, so I don’t see much value here. The only reason to take the Jaguars is that nobody has gone broke betting on them making bad decisions.
Miami Dolphins +350
The Dolphins have enough draft capital to land a hot rookie quarterback, and they have seemingly been linked to Tagovailoa since he was playing at a Honolulu high school. But the Dolphins have also decided to spend a boatload of money this offseason, so who knows what happens if they figure out they can’t land Tagovailoa and don’t really like the other draft options? It’s not a great fit, but you can’t rule it out either.
Los Angeles Chargers +300
There’s a reason the Chargers are the favorite. As I mentioned in the grades for NFL free agency winners and losers, the Chargers’ moves don’t match up with the stated plan of sticking with Tyrod Taylor at quarterback. The Chargers already had a lot of talent and added short-term veteran help. The Chargers have $24.8 million in cap space, according to Spotrac, so there’s enough to fit in Newton. Also, like the Raiders, the Chargers are moving into a new stadium. Unlike the Raiders, the Chargers need to sell tickets. This makes the most sense. The Chargers need to do it.
Where will Cam Newton sign?
I’m going with the Chargers here, chalky as it may be. They can’t just stand pat with Tyrod Taylor. Right? But I also don’t mind taking a small piece of the Raiders at those odds. It seems like we have been hearing forever about how the Raiders want to upgrade from Carr, and one of these days they will. Signing Mariota for $17.6 million over two years doesn’t preclude them from a bigger quarterback move. And you can already see Newton’s face on some Las Vegas casino marquees.
Either way, the AFC West seems like the most logical landing spot.
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