It didn't take Andy Dalton long to accept his new place in the NFL. Jameis Winston has likewise taken a humbling step back in his career to stay in the league. Cam Newton, meanwhile, seems unwilling to accept anything less than the keys to the compound, which could result in him being locked out entirely.
Less than 48 hours after being cut by the Bengals, Dalton accepted a one-year deal to be the backup quarterback to Dak Prescott in Dallas, presuming the Cowboys can agree to a deal with Dak. It was a subservient moment for Dalton, a three-time Pro Bowler who led the lowly Bengals to four playoff appearances, but it's also his best chance at staying in the NFL long enough to prove he's still starter-worthy.
Winston took a similar path, signing with the Saints on a low-cost, one-year deal where he will serve as the backup to Drew Brees along with Taysom Hill. A year after leading the NFL in passing yards, at only 26 years old, Winston, a former No. 1 draft pick, recognized no franchise was willing to give him a starting job right now. But, like Teddy Bridgewater last year, he also understands that if Brees gets hurt, he will get an opportunity to prove himself.
The same is true in Dallas, where Dalton will get his chance if Prescott gets hurt. If either succeeds, teams will come calling next offseason and, perhaps, one of these two will be a starting quarterback heading into the 2021 season.
That's what Newton doesn't seem to understand. He wants to be the starter when he walks into the building. After two mediocre, injury-prone seasons, no team is willing to do that now. Newton simply has too many question marks, too high of a price tag and too big of a personality for that to happen right now. The better route toward Newton's goal, which seems to be a lucrative contract and starting job, is proving he can be a good teammate and showcasing his ability on the practice field and, if applicable, the real field too.
You can make the argument that Newton is doing the right thing by not signing with a team now and waiting for a job to open up through injury. It certainly gives him the freedom to choose if/when that happens. But it would take a certain team that runs a certain offense and is in a certain situation for that situation to arise. In many cases, those teams have a backup they'd feel more comfortable going forward with. After all, the backup knows the offense better than Newton and has already built some chemistry with the other players on the roster.
Dalton and Winston certainly have not accomplished as much as Newton in their careers and their path forward is different than his too. However, the NFL is called the not-for-long league for a reason. If Newton doesn't change course and start reconsidering his options, he could be out of the NFL before anyone thought possible.