The Seattle Seahawks will be without their iron man for the next month. Russell Wilson suffered the first major injury of his career last Thursday and had to get surgery that will knock him out of Seattle's lineup until Week 10 at least. It is just a finger injury and there is hope he can return for the stretch run looking like the Wilson who has picked apart defenses more often than not this season. But the Seahawks are in no-man's land at quarterback in the meantime.
After Wilson got hurt, Pete Carroll turned to longtime backup Geno Smith. Smith played as well as could be expected considering the circumstances (131 yards, one TD, one INT) but was unable to come away with the win. After the news broke that Wilson's absence would stretch over the course of several weeks, Carroll told reporters Smith was the guy now. Seattle will need another backup now that their main backup is starting, so they brought in Blake Bortles for a workout today.
Because Wilson's injury won't knock him out for the season, the Seahawks aren't in the running to trade for an above-average backup. They don't see a reason to sacrifice resources for a band-aid fix, especially since Wilson has been so healthy over the last nine years. The problem is that the Seahawks are a win-now team that relies entirely upon the QB under center to produce points and win games. The running back rotation is constantly banged-up and the offensive line isn't good enough to consistently open up holes in the ground game. The defense, supposedly Carroll's calling card, is one of the worst in the league this year. Seattle isn't winning by running all over their opponents and they certainly are not winning by shutting down opposing offenses.
This means the burden on Smith is immense. He has to deliver or the Seahawks, already teetering on the precipice of contention at 2-3, will fall into a hole they can't dig themselves out of in the final seven weeks of the season with Wilson back. The NFC West features the only unbeaten team in the NFL, a popular Super Bowl pick driven by the Matthew Stafford/Sean McVay combo, and a Niners team that always gives Seattle fits. The Seahawks cannot afford to lose games over the next few weeks if they aim to make the playoffs, and nothing we've seen suggests Geno Smith of all people can flip the switch and carry the team to the wins they need.
Which is why Seattle should sign Cam Newton. Newton is still hanging around at home after getting cut by the Patriots in September. Everything we've seen and heard suggests Newton wants a starting gig and will wait as long as he needs for one to appear. If Wilson's rehab goes well, the starting job in Seattle will not be open for very long, but a partnership could be very mutually beneficial.
As stated above, the Seahawks need a good quarterback if they're to win games unless the defense wakes up tomorrow and decides they're a top-five unit, which is unlikely. Newton cannot throw the ball all that well anymore, but he's definitely still a dangerous runner. Carroll's affinity for running the ball has hindered the Seahawks in the past, to the point "Let Russ Cook" became a rallying cry across the fanbase. The head coach can lean entirely into his love for the ground game with Newton under center, and it will be for the better.
Newton, meanwhile, should see this opportunity as an audition of sorts. Everybody knows Wilson will take back the starting job the moment he is physically capable of doing so. But if Newton plays well for a month and shows other potential suitors he is better than he looked in the COVID-stricken 2020 season, it boosts his free agency prospects significantly and opens the door for more interest if another starter goes down later this year.
Newton would not fit seamlessly into the Seattle offense. He doesn't know the playbook like Smith does and offensive coordinator Shane Waldron would have to work long hours to reconfigure the system for a player of Newton's skillset. But the Seahawks don't have the time for a lost season. Wilson made it clear he wants to win this past offseason and Carroll is the oldest head coach in the league. They'll want to give themselves the best possible chance to win every week.
Signing Newton would be a step in that direction, even as a temporary arrangement for both sides. Carroll needs to make the call.