Cam Newton's stint with the New England Patriots was fraught and filled with errors. Now it's over. The very surprising news broke today via the Boston Globe's Jim McBride that Newton was among today's cuts by the Patriots and will hit free agency.
It is now the Mac Jones show in New England. Newton received pretty much all the first-team snaps in training camp this summer until a COVID protocol misunderstanding kept him out for five days. That was apparently enough for the coaching staff to decide the team was better off riding with Jones.
Now it's about what's next for Newton, a former MVP coming off easily the worst season of his career. Newton was not set up to succeed in 2020, trying to learn a new playbook on the fly with no practice time and then got sidelined with a positive COVID diagnosis that essentially tanked his and the team's season. But even with those caveats acknowledged, Newton was awful. He threw more picks than touchdowns and went consecutive weeks without throwing a TD. He's still the most dangerous short-game running quarterback in the NFL, but his throwing woes offset whatever value he brings on the ground nowadays.
Still, Newton is a big name and looked better in preseason than he did at any point in 2020. Someone will bring Newton aboard as insurance for injury or underperformance by the starter. Who might that be? Here are four possible destinations.
This one makes the most sense by far. The Ravens already have an offense in place that features heavy doses of QB runs and read-options. Newton is obviously no Lamar Jackson, but Jackson has missed time twice now with a positive COVID test and his playstyle suggests he's more in danger of physical injury than most quarterbacks. Newton's own COVID issues presumably helped lead to his departure from New England, but right now Baltimore only has Tyler Huntley and Trace McSorley backing up Jackson. Newton would be a better fit and a more reliable option than either as Jackson's fill-in.
The Colts decided not to acquire more depth at quarterback after Carson Wentz hurt his foot and had to get surgery. The early returns suggest Wentz is on track to return very early in the season, perhaps even Week 1, which is great news for Indy because nobody wanted to see what happened if Jacob Eason or Sam Ehlinger had to start the first game of the season. They should still look into bringing Newton aboard. Frank Reich found a decent measure of success with Jacoby Brissett two years ago and his playstyle is similar to Newton's. Wentz has very much earned the label of an injury-prone quarterback over the last five years and can't be relied upon to finish a year healthy. Newton is a vet who can get it done and, even with 2020 in mind, is definitely better than what the Colts have now.
Ben Roethlisberger is on his last legs and Newton wouldn't fix that. But Big Ben also has a concerning trend of injuries over the last few years and the Steelers are built to win now. Their backup is still Mason Rudolph, who showed in 2019 that he was not very good. Newton not only gives Pittsburgh depth, he gives them a more legitimate option to turn to if the worst happens and Roethlisberger declines even more from last year.
This is the only spot in the NFL where Newton could still realistically compete for a starting gig even with the start of the season only two weeks away. Whatever happens with Deshaun Watson, he won't be lining up under center for the Texans in 2021. Right now, Tyrod Taylor appears to be slated as the starter, and he's fine. But he's not so good that new head coach David Culley wouldn't reconsider his status if Newton joined the team. It's not a move that makes very much sense in either the short or the long-term, but nothing the Texans have done this offseason has made any sense either. If Newton's only goal is to start for a team as soon as possible, Houston is his best bet.