Regardless, Newton will become a free agent in the more traditional way, at the traditional time. In 2020, the Panthers deliberately held his rights beyond the start of free agency as they tried to trade him. Only after realizing that there was no market did they release him, after the major moves had been made.
This time around, Newton looks forward to signing a contact more quickly.
“That’s definitely going to go into consideration,” Newton said Monday on WEEI’s The Greg Hill Show, via Mike Reiss of ESPN.com. “I’m not going to wait in the latter part of another season when I have the opportunity to do something or sign with someone.”
Newton’s health also was a factor last year, from the surgically-repaired foot in 2019 to the surgically-repaired shoulder before that to the surgically-repaired ankle before that. The pandemic prevented teams from taking a close look at Newton before making a financial investment in him. This time around, he enters the process on an equal footing with other quarterbacks.
What if, when the dust settles on the looming game of musical chairs, there’s no seat for Newton as a starter? Would he be a backup?
“Honestly it’s too early to tell,” Newton said. “Do I think I have starting talent? Absolutely. Do I think a lot of things I’ve done were devalued? Not the team’s perspective, probably the media’s perspective — absolutely.”
No one has devalued Newton. Injuries have hampered him in recent years. In 2020, his bout with COVID-19 caused a midseason slump from which he struggled to recover. The full body of work in the season that ended on Sunday has positives and negatives, but not nearly enough for any team to get to the front of the line with an offer of $30 million or more per year.
In 2020, Newton made $3.7 million. He deserves more than that, and the circumstances of 2021 should help him get there. Still, he’ll likely end up making closer to $3.7 million than $30 million in his next contract.