We could be looking at one of the biggest free agency periods in recent memory if some of the notable names actually hit the open market. Tom Brady, Drew Brees, and Derrick Henry are just a few of the big names set to hit unrestricted free agency when the new league year opens on March 18th. However, free agency isn’t the only place for teams to improve their rosters. Enter Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton .
2019 in review
Cam Newton had the most underwhelming season of his career in 2019 and was only able to play in two games before missing the rest of the year with a foot fracture. He was dreadful in the two starts he made, passing for 572 yards while completing 56.2% of his throws and tallying one interception with no scores. His sample size was small as he struggled throwing the long ball and didn’t seem to have made a full recovery from the shoulder injury that brought his 2018 season to a premature end. He also wasn’t a threat as a runner.
Newton is set to make $18.6 million in 2020. That’s a hefty price to pay for a signal caller with a concerning injury history. But it’s also a steal for a franchise player given what most teams are paying now. Will Newton be the watered-down quarterback he’s been for the last couple seasons? Will he return to being an MVP-caliber player? The answer to those questions remain to be seen. There’s a ton of risk associated with pursuing him.
Why might the Panthers try to trade him?
The Panthers could trade Newton to get a fresh start and build around their dynamic running back, Christian McCaffrey. There’s no telling what kind of form Newton will be in for the 2020 season, and then he’ll be an unrestricted free agent in 2021. Carolina can’t afford to waste a ton of cash for another unproductive year. It would make sense to cash in now while opposing teams could be tempted to fork up valuable draft picks and other assets to acquire his services. However, the Panthers’ current quarterback room is awfully shaky.
Panthers owner David Tepper said in February that Newton would “absolutely” be in Carolina this upcoming season. First-year head coach Matt Rhule has also spoken out about wanting Newton around. But ownership’s hand could be forced with the right offer.
The Chicago Bears were one of the earliest teams rumored to be interested in Newton when the possibility of him being traded became an option. Some believe that a healthy Newton could take the reins from Mitchell Trubisky and turn the Bears into a Super Bowl contender.
Another potential suitor is the Los Angeles Chargers. They’ve parted ways with Philip Rivers and have some desirable offensive weapons for Newton the Utilize. Austin Ekeler is a versatile running back who nearly notched 1,000 receiving yards in 2019 and three-time Keenan Allen go become Newton’s new go-to guy out wide. Newton’s favorite target in Carolina was Greg Olsen for years, so a budding tight end like Hunter Henry could be a great fit for him as well.
Newton was the top fantasy quarterback in the NFL throughout his 2015 MVP season but has fallen off a cliff because of his health problems. He was a top three signal caller in 2017, but a lot of his upside comes from his ability to scramble. He only attempted to run the ball five times last season and totaled -2 yards. The foot injury he’s recovering from could affect his mobility, and that would lower his ceiling. Newton might not be an elite quarterback anymore, but i he can still be a top 10 fantasy quarterback if he utilizes all of his physical tools.
NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport says the Panthers are waiting to see how Newton looks performing football activities in March before actively pursuing trades for the signal caller. He predicts that the Chargers, Indianapolis Colts, and Tampa Bay Buccaneers will be in the mix if the Panthers field calls.