Quarterback Cam Newton, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2011 draft and the NFL’s 2015 MVP, has become a free agent, 12 days before the first Sunday of the 2021 regular season. He can sign with any time he chooses.
The real question is which team will choose him?
The first team that comes to mind is Washington. That’s where Newton would be reunited with former Panthers coach Ron Rivera and former Panthers G.M. Marty Hurney. Last year, however, Rivera and Washington didn’t make a move for Newton after he became a free agent. But he was injured, and the pandemic complicated efforts to give him a physical or otherwise perform in-person due diligence.
This year, Newton is healthy and ready. Before he was cut, many thought he’d done enough to win the starting job. Washington has Ryan Fitzpatrick, backed up by Taylor Heinecke. The hay is presumably in the barn.
Other alternatives become teams where he’d serve as a backup. It would be important for the starter to be extremely secure, given the influence Newton immediately would have in a locker room. Similar to Mike Vick when he became a backup, Newton would find a locker room full of young players who are star struck by his presence. They would want to play with him. It would be critical for the starter to be extremely secure in his role.
Or maybe a team could bring him in with an eye toward letting him compete. Saints coach Sean Payton knows Newton well. What if Newton were to take on the Teddy Bridgewater/Jameis Winston role of recent years — the primary backup to the starter, while Taysom Hill stays in his jack of all trades role?
Cam’s best move could be to wait for someone to get injured and for the phone to ring. Although teams may be inclined to go “next man up” at that point, Cam would become an intriguing option if a starting quarterback is lost to injury.
That said, Newton’s status as unvaccinated makes him less attractive than a vaccinated option. To enhance his chances of getting another job, Newton should seriously consider making a “personal decision” that will improve his professional prospects.
Even then, there’s no immediately clear landing spot.