Cam Newton has been in the news a lot lately. First, the former MVP made headlines by getting into a verbal sparring match with a participate at his football camp. Then, the soon-to-be free agent garnered attention by saying that he’s still good enough to start in the NFL.
“There aren’t 32 guys better than me,” Newton told Karen Guregian of the Boston Herald, when discussing whether he’d be back in 2021.
Clearly, the quarterback wants to play. The question, however, is whether or not he’ll be able to find a home.
Last year, after being released by the Panthers, Newton was in a similar situation. It took him more than three months to find a job, ultimately inking a one-year deal with the Patriots worth $1.75 million.
In other words, the market was soft. Only New England, reeling from Tom Brady bolting to Tampa Bay via free agency, was interested in having Newton as a potential starter.
Has the situation changed this season?
Obviously, there are a lot of quarterback-desperate teams. That’s why there has been so much interest in Matthew Stafford and Deshaun Watson. It’s also why there will be so much attempted jockeying at the top of the draft, with Trevor Lawrence, Justin Fields and Zach Wilson the top-three projected prospects in 2021.
Today, ProFootballTalk.com published a story saying that Newton is right; there aren’t 32 quarterbacks who are better than him. They went so far as to lay out their list of those signal callers who weren’t as good as the former MVP.
Included among them was Drew Lock. He’s joined by several others, including Teddy Bridgewater, Jimmy Garoppolo, Jared Goff, Jalen Hurts and others.
That begs one simple question: Why aren’t teams clamoring for Newton?
Well, the answer isn’t as cut and dry as pure ability. It’s also not as nefarious as the quarterback’s personality, flamboyant postgame attire or any of the other inconsequential things that people suggest.
Newton is still good, but he’s not good enough. And in the NFL, that’s worse than being bad.
In the past three seasons, the quarterback has posted a combined record of 13-18. That includes a 6-8 mark in 2018 with the Panthers and 7-8 last year with the Patriots.
That puts his teams in the NFL’s version of purgatory. They’re not good enough to make the postseason, but they aren’t bad enough to get a top-10 pick in the draft. Instead, they’re stuck in no man’s land.
Is that all Newton’s fault? Of course not, but his play hasn’t been good enough to lift his team to great heights.
During that time, the quarterback has completed 612 out of 928 passes (65.9 percent) for 6,624 yards, 32 touchdowns and 24 interceptions. Not terrible numbers, but certainly not great.
Thus, it makes no sense to bring in a quarterback who is going to turn 32 in May if he won’t cause an immediate lift of the entire team. He’s not the long-term solution, so he has to provide a short-term one. Newton doesn’t.
A perfect example of this conundrum is the Broncos.
Is Newton better than Lock right now? Probably. But is he good enough to make Denver a playoff contender? It’s hard to argue that he would’ve made a difference in six games last season, which is what would’ve happened in order for the Broncos to make the postseason.
Instead, he would’ve gotten Denver to somewhere between 7-9 and 9-7. All that would’ve done was hurt the team’s draft positioning, moving them from No. 9 overall to somewhere in the high teens.
What’s the point? That’s actually counterproductive.
Having an 8-8 season is fine, if it’s along the path toward better and better campaigns. If it’s the ceiling, it’s problematic.
And with Newton, that’s the issue. He’s no longer a good enough quarterback to lift a subpar roster to 10-plus wins.
Thus, those kinds of franchises are better of playing young quarterbacks who might someday turn into long-term answers. Such is the case with the Broncos, Eagles, etc. Or they’re better off simply losing more games, so they have a better chance to draft a QB next year. That’s where the Bears, Lions or other teams mentioned by Pro Football Talk fall.
Are there 32 quarterbacks better than Cam Newton? Nope. But that doesn’t mean he should be a starter in the NFL. Every team isn’t in a position where a potential slight upgrade behind center is a good thing.
Newton would be a great fit on a talented roster in need of a steady veteran QB. Think the Broncos in 2015.
He’d also be a great backup, someone who can step in and win a few games to keep a playoff contender’s season on track. Think Bubby Brister in 1998.
That may seem like a hard fall for a former MVP, but that’s just reality. No team is looking for a quarterback who can make them an 8-8 also-ran.
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