Cam Newton's surprising release by the New England Patriots has the NFL world buzzing. Chief among the fallout topics: What's next for Newton?
It's not a clear picture.
On one hand, this could be taken as a sign that the Patriots no longer believed in Newton. On the other, it's possible to argue that the Patriots had so much belief in first-round pick Mac Jones that they did Newton a favor by releasing him, allowing him to latch onto a better opportunity elsewhere.
Is the second reason a stretch? Maybe not. Having Newton lingering as a backup could create an awkward situation for all parties. It's also possible that Newton saw the writing on the wall with Jones and respectfully asked Bill Belichick for his release.
Of course, if Newton does join another team — he's immediately a free agent and not subject to waivers — it almost certainly means he'll come in as a backup to whatever roster he joins.
He's 32 years old and was benched three separate times last year. It was possibly his worst statistical season ever. He just lost his starting job to a rookie. His vaccination status could prove to be troublesome for some teams.
So is there really a market for Newton?
We still say there could be teams in need of QB2 help where Newton would provide an upgrade. He's coming off a preseason in which he completed 14-of-21 passes for 162 yards, one touchdown and one interception. Last year, Newton struggled to throw the ball but was an effective designed runner and scrambler (137 rushes, 592 yards, 12 touchdowns, 55 first-down runs, long run of 49 yards).
He still has something to offer.
Here are five teams (plus one fun bonus possibility) that make some sense for Newton:
This one makes sense on a number of levels.
The Falcons just lost A.J. McCarron to a season-ending knee injury. That leaves them with undrafted rookie Feleipe Franks and Josh Rosen, who just was added to the roster, behind starter Matt Ryan. Who is the Week 1 backup?
Newton calls Atlanta home, but might not be wild about the idea of joining a team with Ryan, who has missed a mere one start since late in the 2009 season.
But the Falcons could certainly move on from Ryan at some point — perhaps even after this season. Bringing in Newton would make some sense from an insurance standpoint, and it at least would give him the chance to earn the backup role in his hometown and maybe Ryan's potential replacement (even if the Falcons certainly would draft a quarterback in that situation).
Still, we could see the fit making sense.
The Cowboys cut Garrett Gilbert and folk hero Ben DiNucci, leaving them with Cooper Rush as Dak Prescott's backup. Rush has attempted three NFL passes, all in the 2017 season.
That's why Dallas has to consider a better alternative in case Prescott's injury worries carry into the regular season. The Cowboys' season is likely over once again if Prescott suffers another longterm injury. But if Prescott were to miss, say, a start or two along the way, could Newton provide a better option than Rush?
Maybe. This is one to keep an eye on. Prescott's non-throwing shoulder is the more immediate concern for his early-season health, lest we forget the devastating ankle injury that ended his 2020 season. One wrong turn or awkward hit could bring that ailment back to the forefront quickly.
The Cowboys could make a one-year, cap-friendly deal and add Newton if they think he could provide a tangible upgrade. You can feel Jerry Jones' tangibly self-applied pressure to win now.
Washington Football Team
The surface connections are pretty obvious. Newton and head coach Ron Rivera go way back. They were a fascinating pair with the Carolina Panthers, and Rivera went a long way most times to defend Newton publicly and to the team when needed.
Rivera helped Newton develop into an MVP and even reached the Super Bowl. They've remained close, and some thought Newton could end up in Washington when he remained unsigned into June last year.
— Morey Hershgordon (@MHershgordon) August 12, 2021
Newton also worked in Carolina with Washington offensive coordinator Scott Turner. It would likely be a smooth adjustment if it happens.
The question is whether there's a spot for Newton on this roster. Ryan Fitzpatrick is the starter. Taylor Heinicke, the man who almost took down Tom Brady in the playoffs, remains the likely No. 2 option. Kyle Allen, Newton's teammate in Carolina, did suffer a sprained ankle the other day in practice, and 2020 undrafted QB Steven Montez looks like more of a practice squad candidate to us.
Washington got to face Newton in Week 1 of the preseason, which also helps. He completed 4-of-7 passes for 49 yards in his one drive against them, leading the Patriots to a field goal on his only possession of the game.
The Broncos named Teddy Bridgewater the starter over Drew Lock. Was this an indictment of Lock or the sign of a coach worried about his job? Whatever the case, the Broncos' long-term quarterback picture is unclear and featureless.
Newton wouldn't represent the future, per se, and we don't view this as anywhere close to the most likely landing spot. But he could at least give the Broncos another body at the position.
Right now they could simply keep Bridgewater and Lock on the active roster and try to land Brett Rypien on the practice squad (if he clears waivers).
The Broncos clearly would want Newton only as insurance to protect against Bridgewater getting hurt, we'd guess. There are some reasons it could make sense, even if we don't ultimately see it happening this way.
It already feels like a lost season. Deshaun Watson might be deadweight on the roster. Assumed starter Tyrod Taylor last started the majority of a season back in 2017 with the Bills, and he's now on his third different team since then. There's hope that 2021 third-rounder Davis Mills is worth investing in, but the Texans can't really go to him anytime soon, can they?
This is where Newton could be somewhat useful. Texans GM Nick Caserio was in New England last year when the Patriots signed Newton, although we don't know to what degree he pushed for the move to happen.
But Caserio's familiarity with Newton in the building last year — especially amid very difficult circumstances — could help grease the wheels for him coming to Houston.
Why might he want to sign with the lowly Texans? Well, it might represent the clearest path toward starting games this season. Is that what Newton wants? If so, we can't rule out this possibility.
It would be the ultimate savage move by Brian Flores, the ex-Belichick assistant, to sign Newton and have a package of plays installed for Miami's Week 1 matchup in New England.
Wouldn't that be something?
The Dolphins have been running Jacoby Brissett as Tua Tagovailoa's backup this summer, and No. 3 QB Reid Stinnett has had some fantastic moments in preseason garbage time. So there might not be room for Newton ... unless Tua's health suddenly becomes a worry.
But we also wouldn't rule out the chance to add the ex-Patriots QB if Flores thought it meant gaining an edge over his former teacher. It's a long shot for sure. But it's one we can't completely dismiss either.