While Cam Newton supposedly only garnered interest from the New England Patriots and the Cleveland Browns, that shouldn’t be held against him this season.
If we’ve learned nothing else from the calendar year 2020, it’s that we should expect the unexpected.
Very few people probably assumed back in January that we’d all be under lockdown and in quarantine for months on end because of the coronavirus pandemic. Very few people probably expected Tom Brady would ever leave the New England Patriots — or sign with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
And very few people probably ever expected to see Cam Newton in a Patriots uniform.
Here we are all the same, and all those things have come to pass.
With the news trickling out that Newton didn’t receive any significant interest on the free agent market after the Carolina Panthers released him back in March — only the Cleveland Browns even talked to him allegedly besides the Patriots — it begs the question if perhaps the lack of interest in acquiring Newton this spring/summer should be considered a red flag.
I’m here to state firmly that it shouldn’t be.
For starters, keep the pandemic in mind. If ever there was a year where teams would be hard-pressed to sign a player coming off a pair of major injuries, it’s this year — considering team medical staffs aren’t really allowed to examine and work out recovering players like they normally would be most years.
On top of that, consider that Brady himself reportedly only drew serious interest from the Patriots, Buccaneers, and Los Angeles Chargers when he hit free agency. Rumors swirled around him and other teams like the New York Giants, Miami Dolphins, Las Vegas Raiders, Tennessee Titans, Indianapolis Colts, etc — and yet at the end of the day, all those teams passed on him.
Why? For the same reasons that 30 teams in the league neglected to even speak with Newton over the past three months.
There are surprisingly less QB-needy teams this year than normal
It doesn’t matter if you’re a former league MVP and Super Bowl participant or you’re the Greatest Quarterback of All Time — the market was cool this year for QBs because most of the franchises around the league actually had signal-callers in place they felt good about.
Rarely is there such security and stability at the game’s most important position, but this season seems to be an anomaly in that order.
The Cincinnati Bengals (Joe Burrow), Miami Dolphins (Tua Tagovailoa), and L.A. Chargers (Justin Herbert) all took QBs in the first round of April’s draft that could very well end up starting this season.
Elsewhere in the AFC North, the Pittsburgh Steelers are returning Ben Roethlisberger but also saw enough from Mason Rudolph and Devlin Hodges to make them stand pat this offseason. The Cleveland Browns are still rolling with the No. 1 overall pick from 2018 at QB (Baker Mayfield), and the Baltimore Ravens have a true superstar at the position in Lamar Jackson.
In the AFC South, the Titans extended Ryan Tannehill to a massive new contract, the Houston Texans are working on a mega-deal to keep Deshaun Watson under center for the foreseeable future, and the Indianapolis Colts inked Philip Rivers to start in front of Jacoby Brissett. Only the Jacksonville Jaguars perhaps had a need at QB, but they seemed confident enough in the young Gardner Minshew that they traded away Nick Foles.
The Denver Broncos like Drew Lock, the Las Vegas Raiders added Marcus Mariota to compete with Derek Carr, and the Kansas City Chiefs have some guy named Patrick Mahomes who’s supposedly pretty good out West in the AFC.
And back in the Patriots’ own division, the New York Jets have Sam Darnold and the Buffalo Bills have Josh Allen. Both teams also took young QBs in April’s draft as well.
Gazing around the AFC picture, it’s easy to understand why there wasn’t a real demand for Newton’s services.
It’s a similar story in the NFC, too.
The Green Bay Packers have Aaron Rodgers and now Jordan Love (another first-round pick from April’s draft), the Chicago Bears added Nick Foles to compete with Mitchell Trubisky, the Detroit Lions have the ever-reliable Matthew Stafford, and the Minnesota Vikings have the ever-expensive Kirk Cousins in the NFC North.
In the NFC South, the Bucs got Brady, the New Orleans Saints have Drew Brees, Taysom Hill, and Jameis Winston, the Carolina Panthers got Teddy Bridgewater, and the Atlanta Falcons have Matt Ryan.
For the NFC East, you have stability with the established Dak Prescott on the Dallas Cowboys and the promising Daniel Jones on the New York Giants. The Philadelphia Eagles added second-round pick Jalen Hurts to compete(?) with Carson Wentz. The Washington Redskins perhaps could have used Newton, but new coach Ron Rivera (Newton’s old coach in Carolina) has publicly stated he wants to see what they have in ex-Panther Kyle Allen and Dwayne Haskins.
Finally, in the NFC West, Jimmy Garoppolo just took the San Francisco 49ers to the Super Bowl, Kyler Murray just won NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year with the Arizona Cardinals, and Russell Wilson is Russell Wilson on the Seattle Seahawks. Maybe one could justify the L.A. Rams adding Newton, but for now, it seems Sean McVay is content to keep rolling with the up-and-down Jared Goff.
All in all, there aren’t a lot of vacancies around the league at QB1 or even at QB2. Considering that Newton really only wanted to play for a team where he could realistically compete to be the starter — and enter training camp as such — it makes sense that the Patriots were the best (and perhaps only) fit for him.