The New England Patriots reportedly have not ruled out re-signing Cam Newton.
But after the less-than-stellar season Newton just endured, it would not be at all surprising to see the team and quarterback part ways this offseason.
Which begs the question: If Newton does leave the Patriots — who signed him to a one-year contract that ultimately paid him $3.7 million — where would he go? That’s a difficult question to answer.
Despite his struggles as a passer in New England’s flawed offense, Newton still believes he deserves an NFL starting job. Whether any teams agree with that assessment remains to be seen.
“If you’re asking me, ‘Do I want to be a backup?’ Hell no,” Newton said last week on WEEI’s “Greg Hill Show.” “Because when I look at other teams and I’m looking at other players play, there’s been guys that have been getting away with, I feel, murder for years for subpar play. Do I have the right to say that with the year that I had this year? No. But I’m going to be honest and say it, because that’s what I do.”
In that WEEI interview, Newton never outright said he would not accept a backup job. But he doesn’t sound keen on joining a team that wouldn’t at least give him a chance to compete for a starting spot.
With that criteria in mind, here are five potential landing spots for the 31-year-old QB:
Washington Football Team
If Newton exits New England, a reunion with Ron Rivera — his head coach for all nine of his seasons with the Carolina Panthers — would make the most sense. Newton also has worked with Washington offensive coordinator Scott Turner, Carolina’s QBs coach in 2018 and 2019. The WFT won the terrible NFC East this season and boasts some talented young weapons (second-year wideout Terry McLaurin, rookie running back Antonio Gibson, tight end Logan Thomas) and a very good defense. Alex Smith is under contract for two more seasons, but the surefire Comeback Player of the Year hasn’t looked like a top-end starter and might not be back in 2021. Bring in Newton and let him duke it out with Saturday night standout Taylor Heinicke in training camp.
Newton might not be interested in backing up Ben Roethlisberger. But if A) the soon-to-be 39-year-old retires or B) the Steelers opt to part ways rather than carry Roethlisberger’s monster $41 million cap hit next season, Pittsburgh and its bevy of offensive weapons could be an appealing destination for the Patriots QB. The Steelers won’t be in a position to draft a top-tier quarterback, and Newton likely wouldn’t be too concerned about competing with Mason Rudolph.
With Philip Rivers and Jacoby Brissett both set to hit free agency, 2020 fourth-round draft pick Jacob Eason is the only Colts quarterback currently under contract for next season. With a smart coaching staff/front office and a well-built, playoff-ready roster, Indianapolis won’t be looking to start from scratch with a young QB.
Against all odds, Mitchell Trubisky might have played his way into a new contract with his performance during Chicago’s successful push for a playoff spot. But if the Bears opt not to re-sign the 2017 second overall pick, they could look to bring Newton aboard to battle Nick Foles, whose ineffectiveness this season prompted the team to turn back to Trubisky.
New Orleans Saints
Multiple ESPN analysts named New Orleans, which is expected to lose Drew Brees to retirement, as the most likely suitor for Newton. Head coach Sean Payton is enamored with multitalented backup Taysom Hill, but given Hill’s relative inexperience as a full-time NFL QB, the Saints would be wise to add a veteran to compete with him this summer. Hill is more versatile than Newton, but both are rushing threats. The Saints’ other quarterback, Jameis Winston, is an impending free agent.