NFL

What’s next for Cam Newton’s career in the NFL?

Aug 29, 2021; East Rutherford, New Jersey, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Cam Newton (1) looks on during the first half against the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

After an underwhelming season in New England, Cam Newton came into training camp looking to prove himself. The veteran QB trended well during the preseason. However, the Patriots decided to look toward the future with their rookie prospect Mac Jones and released Newton.

The league MVP in 2015, Cam Newton, led the Carolina Panthers to great success in his prime years. However, as he aged, his production and physical health waned. The downward trend ultimately led Carolina to part ways with him in 2020.

Fast forward to today, Cam Newton remains a free agent. Given the optics surrounding his play, it leaves one to question what should come next for his NFL career. Some believe that he can’t play at a starting-caliber level anymore. Newton himself suggests otherwise. This article opens up on the prospects surrounding the current state of Cam Newton’s playing career. Through this, we outline what could come next for him.

Cam Newton in the 2020 NFL season

Jan 3, 2021; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Cam Newton (1) celebrates after scoring a touchdown against the New York Jets during the third quarter at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports
Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

Tom Brady is a hard act to follow. Even the best of quarterbacks would struggle to reach those heights. That said, Cam Newton’s performance in 2020 left far more to be desired than expected. With a touchdown to interception ratio of 8:10, the numbers chalk up 2020 as the worst season of Newton’s career.

In fairness, the 2020 NFL season had an overwhelming wave of concern towering over it in the form of the COVID-19 pandemic. As we know, Cam Newton did contract the virus, which forced him to miss a game. While we cannot definitively declare that the virus derailed Newton’s performance, it remains a viable possibility.

The Patriots also had multiple players opt out of play for the entire season because of the virus, which also factors into the on-field product. That said, you can take a lot away from Newton’s play last season, but all evidence proves circumstantial in retrospect.

Precedent over potential

Aug 22, 2019; Foxborough, MA, USA; Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton (1) sits on the bench after suffering an apparent injury during the first half against the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports
Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

Cam Newton isn’t the first dual-threat QB to grace the NFL gridiron. Unfortunately, the way it goes with those types of players makes for brief stints at the helm. These guys do add to their team’s offensive prowess but at a cost. Much like running backs who use their speed and other physical attributes to plunge for yardage, some dual-threats like Cam Newton become more susceptible to weariness and injury over time. The extra hits these QBs take build-up and eventually sink their abilities.

Such a narrative has become common in the current era of NFL football, and Cam Newton is no outlier. His impact on the game had most to do with his physical traits and how he utilized them to his advantage during play. Though rarely the most accurate thrower, he found ways to make the requisite plays throughout the years. However, a lack of progression in his performance as a pocket passer did ultimately cost him.

As he can’t but so often make plays out of the pocket using his legs as he used to, Newton ought to have improved as a pocket passer. He has not. With that, many saw last season as the death knell to his career as a credible starting quarterback.

So what’s next for Cam Newton in the NFL?

CHARLOTTE, NC - SEPTEMBER 09:  Cam Newton #1 of the Carolina Panthers takes the field against the Dallas Cowboys at Bank of America Stadium on September 9, 2018 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
Grant Halverson/Getty Images

Some have pointed out an obvious idea about Cam Newton. Though he has regressed, we can’t definitively say that there are 32 better quarterbacks in the NFL today. With that, we can confidently say that Newton’s career may yet live on. However, talent isn’t the only factor involved in addressing the quarterback position.

I looked back at Carmelo Anthony’s situation in the NBA a few years ago for this scenario. After a release from the Houston Rockets early on during the 2018-19 season, Anthony didn’t land on another roster for the remainder of the year. The emerging narrative around him at the time concerned doubts about his production, age, fit, and attitude. For some teams, they focused on signing younger talent. Others didn’t believe that he would fit their playstyle. It boiled down to whether the potential benefits outweighed the risks, and for most teams, they figured not.

He joined the Portland Trail Blazers in the next season and proved doubters wrong. However, his success in Portland came as he performed in a reduced role. I believe a similar resolve should come for Cam Newton.

As a tenured veteran, he’d prove a valuable piece on multiple teams. Especially since offenses have placed a bigger emphasis on moving the ball using triple threat plays, Cam should fit seamlessly on some teams looking to make use of that. Beyond that, I believe Cam would work as a prototypical backup. In the end, it all depends on who sees the worth in taking a chance on him. If that team emerges and when that’ll come, we’ll have to wait for.

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