After claims to the contrary at the combine, an attempt at media spin, and a nearly incomprehensible Instagram comment, the Carolina Panthers are finally releasing Cam Newton. The writing was plastered all over the wall after the organization signed Teddy Bridgewater and sent out their good-bye tweets to the former face of the franchise.
Newton's talent has always been undeniable, but the past few seasons have been concerning enough that teams won't be lining up to bring him in. He played two games last season after suffering a Linsfranc injury in the preseason (a massive red flag for a scrambling quarterback like Newton) and a partially torn rotator cuff suffered in 2016 that cut his 2018 season short. The 2017 season was the last time Newton looked like Newton, and he threw for 3,302 yards and 22 touchdowns with 16 interceptions while running for 754 yards and six touchdowns in an 11-5 campaign. His ceiling is high, but so is his risk of injury, making him quite the boom-or-bust signing for any potential suitor. Here are three teams who seem most likely to kick the tires on the 2015 MVP.
New England Patriots
The Patriots are tightly pressed against the salary cap and are reportedly fine with their current QB room of Brian Hoyer, Jarrett Stidham, and Cody Kessler, per Albert Breer. But if Newton is looking for a one-year "prove it" deal on the cheaper side, Bill Belichick surely wouldn't ignore his phone call. It will be a defining year for Belichick and the franchise as a whole, and bringing in a presumably healthy Newton is the only surefire way to guarantee they'll be in championship contention, unless Stidham is secretly a first-round pick in a fourth-rounder's body. Newton's dual-threat ability would give the Patriots' offense enough variance to put up big points some weeks. After bringing back most of their defensive starters from last year's elite unit, they don't need him to be MVP Cam, they just need him to be VP Cam. Belichick has never seen a risk he isn't willing to take, and if the money is right, Newton is another he'd strongly consider.
Los Angeles Chargers
Despite the plethora of starting-caliber quarterbacks available this offseason, the Chargers did nothing to offset the departure of Philip Rivers. They seem content to roll into next season with Tyrod Taylor as the starter, perhaps with a top-10 quarterback selection behind him after April's draft. Now that Newton is available and the competition is significantly lessened after teams like the Bears and the Colts already reinforced their quarterback rooms, he makes a lot of sense for Los Angeles. He's a better version of Taylor, the type of QB Anthony Lynn reportedly prefers, and is enough of a big name that he could help draw fans to the new stadium the franchise plans to debut this season. Regardless of the team's plans for the NFL Draft, Newton is an exciting player who could keep them competitive for a year until the young buck is ready. But Newton is only 30 and could also still have some good years ahead of him if he works out better than expected.
Las Vegas Raiders
The Raiders are looking to make a splash in 2020 to celebrate their move to Vegas. They already signed Marcus Mariota to a pretty substantial deal for a backup quarterback and still have Derek Carr under contract for the next three seasons. But if Newton is willing to come aboard for cheap and they can find a taker for Carr (both realistic scenarios from where we currently sit), Jon Gruden wouldn't turn down the chance to work with a talent like Newton. He's a big enough name to get Vegas fans even more excited for their new franchise and he'd be an upgrade over Carr. The Raiders aren't a quarterback away from contending, but Newton's value off the field and the improvement he'd bring at quarterback make this a natural fit.