Cam Newton: 5 teams who are a perfect fit for free-agent QB

By Matt Fitzgerald
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

Cam Newton signed a one-year prove-it deal late last offseason with the New England Patriots, and after an underwhelming 2020 campaign the former NFL MVP will hit the open market again.

Where might Newton land? Where could he compete for a starting job?

Here are five teams who come to mind as perfect fits for Newton for the 2021 season.

Read More: Cam Newton pushes back against critics, plans to play in 2021

Cam Newton to New Orleans Saints

Cam Newton to New Orleans Saints
Dec 3, 2017; New Orleans, LA, USA; Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton (1) and New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (9) meet after their game at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. The Saints won, 31-21. Mandatory Credit: Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

A return to the NFC South. To face his former team in the Carolina Panthers twice next season. The chance to beat out the likes of mistake-prone wild card Jameis Winston and unproven tight end hybrid Taysom Hill for the Saints’ starting quarterback job. Succeeding another legend in Drew Brees.

So many juicy storylines if this comes to fruition. You can bet New Orleans will do all it can to restructure contracts and keep as much of this core together as possible, because it’s been one of the best rosters in football in recent years. Plus, the Saints have one of the best coaches in the business in Sean Payton, who’s ever the creative play designer.

Oh, and New Orleans has Michael Thomas, who before an injury-riddled 2020 campaign was pretty much unquestionably the best receiver in the NFL. Provided Thomas is healthy and the Saints can do enough salary cap gymnastics to keep most of their veterans, Newton is an ideal stopgap option.

Related: NFL Power Rankings – Cleveland Browns rise, Chicago Bears plummet after free agency

Being so far back in the 2021 NFL Draft order precludes the possibility of New Orleans moving up for a quarterback in the first round. The team needs all those draft assets, too, in order to bring in young players on rookie contracts amid a scramble to get out of salary cap trouble.

Newton would love to play for someone like Payton, have protection from a stout offensive line like the Saints have, and throw to phenomenal, versatile playmakers like Thomas, Hill and especially stud tailback Alvin Kamara.

Not a lot of downside here. New Orleans really can’t afford to pay any QB for 2021, and Newton proved he was willing to take a pay cut in New England for a shot with a premier NFL organization. A similar chance could arise with the Saints here soon.

Read More: New Orleans Saints quarterback: Top options to replace Drew Brees in 2021

Cam Newton to Washington Football Team

Cam Newton to Washington Football Team
Jan 3, 2021; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Cam Newton (1) looks to pass against the New York Jets during the first quarter at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

An obvious connecting of the dots here: Former Carolina head coach Ron Rivera is now at the helm in Washington. Rivera brought Scott Turner with him from the Panthers to be the Football Team’s offensive coordinator. Turner was Newton’s quarterbacks coach for two seasons.

Beyond those strong ties between Washington’s staff and Newton, there’s a real opportunity to start for a club that just won the NFC East this past season and actually gave the Tampa Bay Buccaneers more than they bargained for on Super Wild Card Weekend in a valiant losing effort.

Alex Smith recently said he believed the Football Team didn’t want him to play in 2020, and even with lackluster numbers coming off a life-threatening leg injury, his veteran leadership and experience led to a 5-1 record when he started. Taylor Heinicke started in Smith’s place in the playoffs and played extremely well under the circumstances versus the Bucs’ championship defense.

Related: Predicting NFL playoff teams and Super Bowl 2022 winner

But to suggest Heinicke is a viable starting option in 2021 is a stretch at best. Between his inexperience, Smith’s implicit disenchantment with how the organization handled his epic gridiron comeback and Newton’s relationships with Rivera and Turner, all the stars are aligning for Newton to shine in the nation’s capital.

The Football Team has a phenomenal defense to back Newton up, and two capable pass-catching backs in Antonio Gibson and J.D. McKissic. They also have a rising stud at tight end in Logan Thomas and a legitimate top receiver in Terry McLaurin.

As long as Washington brings in another receiver via a high draft pick or in free agency, the offense should be plenty stocked for someone like Newton to come in, steer the ship and help the Football Team repeat as division winners.

Read More: 5 teams who are a perfect fit for Seattle Seahawks QB Russell Wilson

Cam Newton to Denver Broncos

Cam Newton to Denver Broncos
Jan 3, 2021; Denver, Colorado, USA; Denver Broncos quarterback Drew Lock (3) during the fourth quarter against the Las Vegas Raiders at Empower Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Imagine Newton returning to the franchise he once lost to in the Super Bowl. There’s a strong chance Newton could land in Denver and beat out Drew Lock for the starting quarterback job.

The Broncos might be too far back in the draft at ninth overall to land one of this year’s premier QB prospects. With holes all over their roster and the need to build out depth to compete with the likes of the Chiefs and Chargers in the AFC West, they shouldn’t reach for a rookie signal-caller. The front office has done that too often since Peyton Manning retired, and the results haven’t been good.

Instead, Denver can acquire the best player available throughout the draft and prioritize building the defense and the offensive line. With a star left tackle in Garett Bolles already in place, it’d only take another piece or two for the team to make huge improvements up front.

Read More: Denver Broncos draft picks: Best 2021 NFL Draft targets, potential draft selections

What’s most exciting about Newton going to the Broncos is the skill position talent he’d be surrounded with that was desperately lacking in New England. Courtland Sutton, Jerry Jeudy and KJ Hamler are all bursting with ability in Denver’s receiving corps, and Noah Fant is among the most gifted tight ends in the game. Don’t forget about Melvin Gordon in the backfield, too.

Joining an AFC West division with Patrick Mahomes, Justin Herbert and Derek Carr at quarterback for the other three teams may not seem appealing for Newton on the surface. However, if he acquits himself well, plays at a high level and keeps the Broncos competitive, suddenly his NFL future looks a lot brighter.

Lock was Pro Football Focus’ 33rd-ranked quarterback in 2020, whereas Newton was 23rd, with far less skill around him. Sounds like a pretty big upgrade.

Read More: 5 teams who are a perfect fit for Houston Texans QB Deshaun Watson

Cam Newton to Chicago Bears

Cam Newton to Chicago Bears
Dec 20, 2020; Miami Gardens, Florida, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Cam Newton (1) warms up prior to the game against the Miami Dolphins at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

There was a time, specifically when right around when free agency opened in March 2020, when the Bears were considered the favorite by FanDuel to land Newton.

Instead, Chicago opted to roll with Mitch Trubisky and trade for Nick Foles. At least acquiring the latter didn’t seem like a horrendous move at the time, given that Foles had won a Super Bowl MVP not long ago.

Although the Bears made the playoffs, their offense once again held them back from truly competing for a Super Bowl. Trubisky and Foles looked varying levels of incompetent, and general manager Ryan Pace frankly looks foolish as a result.

Pace is still in charge, though, and Chicago is giving him and alleged offensive guru Matt Nagy one more season to prove they can get it done.

Related: Top 40 remaining NFL free agents of 2021

The good news to arise from the Bears’ late-season push for the postseason was the emergence of David Montgomery. He was playing as well as any running back in the NFL down the stretch, as Nagy committed to the rushing attack in a way he had struggled to before, and it contributed to three straight wins to close December.

With a savvy, innovative schemer like Nagy installing the offense and Newton joining Montgomery as a legitimate running threat, there’s a chance for Chicago to be better than it’s been in years. The defense led by Khalil Mack should be strong still, so it comes down to how much the offense can produce.

Perhaps if Newton comes aboard at a bargain cost, it’d convince Allen Robinson to play under the franchise tag. After catching passes mostly from Blake Bortles, Trubisky and Foles throughout his career, Robinson might actually welcome the chance to work with Newton for a year — and maybe lift the Bears back to glory in the process.

Read More: Chicago Bears quarterback: Best options to become starting QB in 2021

Cam Newton to New England Patriots

Cam Newton to New England Patriots
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

This is the Occam’s razor destination, and while not as exciting or juicy as the other stops, it seems like the most logical one for all parties involved.

Now that Patriots offensive coordinator has had a year to feel out what Newton does best, he can better adapt the system run by Tom Brady for two previous decades to what Newton does best.

It’s on New England to do way better at surrounding its QB with better receivers. N’Keal Harry and Jakobi Meyers are the premier playmakers on the depth chart for 2021. That’s not going to get it done.

Since head coach Bill Belichick has a lot of salary cap room to work with whereas many other teams are strapped for cash this offseason, it can be a rare occasion where the Pats splurge a lot in free agency for a No. 1 receiver at the very least, say Allen Robinson or Kenny Golladay.

Read More: New England Patriots quarterback options: Trade up in the 2021 NFL Draft

Belichick could stand to land another proven veteran on the open market, just to give the Patriots, McDaniels and perhaps Newton more to work with if he returns. There’s a case to be made New England doesn’t have many better options, unless it trades for Jimmy Garoppolo — Brady’s initial, presumed successor.

All things considered, with the lack of offseason, quick turnaround from joining the team and the lack of high-end pass-catchers, Newton did some things well in 2020. He completed 65.8% of his passes for 7.2 yards per attempt despite having no consistently viable downfield threat. His TD-INT ratio was an unimpressive eight to 10, yet the offense was so conservative and hardly allowed him to take risks to boost those numbers.

Plus, Newton showed he can still run the ball really well, carrying the rock for 592 yards on 137 attempts and scoring 12 touchdowns. That prowess on the ground helps account for Newton’s lack of scores through the air.

Don’t sleep on Super Cam coming back to Foxborough to ball out with better weapons in 2021.

Read More: Cam Newton could be New England Patriots’ best option at quarterback for 2021

Minnesota Vikings Cheerleaders

Oct 22, 2017; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings cheerleaders perform in the fourth quarter in a game between the Minnesota Vikings and Baltimore Ravens at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders

Dec 23, 2018; Arlington, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys cheerleader performs during a timeout from the game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Carolina Panthers Cheerleaders

Sep 25, 2016; Charlotte, NC, USA; Carolina Panthers cheerleaders during the second quarter between the Carolina Panthers and the Minnesota Vikings at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

Washington Football Team Cheerleaders

Dec 15, 2019; Landover, MD, USA; A Washington Football Team cheerleader dances on the field during a timeout against the Philadelphia Eagles in the first quarter at FedExField. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Jacksonville Jaguars Cheerleaders

Dec 27, 2020; Jacksonville, Florida, USA; The Jacksonville Jaguars cheerleaders, The Roar perform before a game against the Chicago Bears at TIAA Bank Field. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

Miami Dolphins Cheerleaders

Aug 8, 2019; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; Miami Dolphins cheerleaders perform during the first half against the Atlanta Falcons at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports.

Jacksonville Jaguars Cheerleaders

Oct 15, 2017; Jacksonville, FL, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars cheerleaders perform during a football game against the Los Angeles Rams at EverBank Field. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders

Jan 5, 2019; Arlington, TX, USA; The Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders perform during the fourth quarter of a NFC Wild Card playoff football game against the Seattle Seahawks at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Arizona Cardinals Cheerleaders

Oct 15, 2017; Glendale, AZ, USA; Arizona Cardinals cheerleaders perform during the first half against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

Las Vegas Raiders Cheerleaders

Sep 10, 2018; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Raiders cheerleaders perform during the first half against the Los Angeles Rams at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

New England Patriots Cheerleaders

Aug 16, 2018; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots cheerleaders perform during the first quarter of a game against the Philadelphia Eagles at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Stew Milne-USA TODAY Sports

Kansas City Chiefs Cheerleaders

Oct 28, 2018; Kansas City, MO, USA; The Kansas City Chiefs cheerleaders perform during the second half against the Denver Broncos at Arrowhead Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Los Angeles Chargers Cheerleaders

Aug 20, 2017; Carson, CA, USA; Los Angeles Chargers cheerleaders perform during a NFL football game against the New Orleans Saints at StubHub Center. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Tampa Bay Buccaneers Cheerleaders

Oct 5, 2017; Tampa, FL, USA;Tampa Bay Buccaneers cheerleaders perform during the second half of a football game against the New England Patriots at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders

Dec 18, 2016; Arlington, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders perform a holiday show at halftime for the game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at AT&T Stadium. Dallas beat Tampa 26-20. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Carolina Panthers Cheerleaders

Aug 24, 2018; Charlotte, NC, USA; Carolina Panthers Topcats Cheerleaders perform during the second quarter between the Carolina Panthers and the New England Patriots at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders

Dec 9, 2018; Arlington, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys cheerleader performs on the sidelines during the game against the Philadelphia Eagles at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Washington Football Team Cheerleaders

Aug 16, 2018; Landover, MD, USA; Washington Football Team cheerleaders dance on the field during a timeout against the New York Jets in the fourth quarter at FedEx Field. Washington won 15-13. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Houston Texans Cheerleaders

Jan 4, 2020; Houston, Texas, USA; Houston Texans cheerleader perform in the AFC Wild Card NFL Playoff game between the Houston Texans and the Buffalo Bills at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sportsnn

Miami Dolphins Cheerleaders

Oct 21, 2018; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; Miami Dolphins cheerleader performs against the Detroit Lions during the first half at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Minnesota Vikings Cheerleaders

Nov 19, 2017; Minneapolis, MN, USA; A Minnesota Vikings cheerleader performs during the fourth quarter against the Los Angeles Rams at U.S. Bank Stadium. Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

New England Patriots Cheerleaders

Oct. 9, 2011 – Foxboro, Massachusetts, U.S – New England Patriots cheerleaders perform. The New England Patriots defeat the New York Jets 30 – 21 during the AFC East matchup at Gillette Stadium. (Credit Image: u00a9 Geoff Bolte/Southcreek/ZUMAPRESS.com)

Los Angeles Chargers Cheerleaders

Aug 25, 2018; Carson, CA, USA; Los Angeles Chargers girls cheerleaders perform during a preseason game against the New Orleans Saints at StubHub Center. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Minnesota Vikings Cheerleaders

Oct 22, 2017; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings cheerleaders perform in the fourth quarter in a game between the Minnesota Vikings and Baltimore Ravens at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports