Cam Newton is in a tricky spot that becomes trickier every time a free-agent quarterback like Jameis Winston or Andy Dalton signs a new contract and takes away a potential job. Yet the former Panthers passer apparently has little interest in a backup role like the one Winston took in New Orleans or the situation Dalton accepted in Dallas.
Newton, a free agent at age 30 who is still recovering from the Lisfranc injury that derailed his final season in Carolina, appears willing to wait for a chance to continue his career as a starter even though no such opportunity currently exists.
According to The Athletic, there is “no way” Newton will sign to be a team’s backup quarterback. Instead, he will “continue to rehab and wait for travel restrictions to life so teams can examine him.” The worst-case scenario presented in The Athletic’s report: Newton “waits until a starter gets hurt.”
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Technically, that’s not the worst-case scenario for Newton. As SN’s Vinnie Iyer recently pointed out, Newton could simply remain out of the league for the entire 2020 season.
In terms of teams that in theory could offer Newton a chance to start in 2020, the Patriots top the list. New England is entering the season with Jarrett Stidham and his four career pass attempts as its presumed starter in the wake of Tom Brady’s departure for Tampa Bay.
Yes, Bill Belichick could be waiting for a chance to get Newton cleared by New England’s medical staff before considering an alternative at quarterback. But at this point, if Belichick wanted Newton to play for the Patriots, Newton would already be a Patriot.
The Jaguars follow the Patriots on the list of potential suitors for Newton as a starter, but as Iyer writes, “they just got out of the Nick Foles mess and should do their due diligence on Gardner Minshew to figure out whether they need to select a QB high in the 2021 draft, where, as a rebuilding team, they have the best shot at Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence.” And the Broncos? “Their decision to load up on more offensive skill players suggests they’re all in to lift Drew Lock.”
The Bears, Redskins or Raiders? Nope (already traded for Foles), nope (already traded for Kyle Allen) and nope (already signed Marcus Mariota).
So Newton waiting for an unfortunate injury to a starting quarterback or a shocking, Andrew Luck-like retirement might be his preferred option, but it also might be his only option.
More than anything, bad timing has been a thorn in Newton’s side. The Panthers dragged their feet on what had become an inevitable move and didn’t release Newton until March 24, a week after they had agreed to terms on a free-agency contract with Teddy Bridgewater.
Even worse for Newton as it relates to the timing, though, have been coronavirus-related restrictions on travel and medical exams. Teams simply are scared to sign him without being able to clear him themselves. (Whether they actually should be so scared is a different topic.)
Those elements are out of Newton’s control, so his continued focus on his rehab rather than his next playing role makes sense. And we can’t blame Newton, who has been exalted for all of his quarterbacking life until now, for rejecting the idea that he is suddenly not good enough to start.