Cam Newton's best option: Sit and become NFL's top QB insurance policy – as a starter

Dan Wetzel

The NFL isn’t beating down Cam Newton’s door right now. The draft is over. Free agency is all but over. Offseason programs – done remotely, of course – are underway.

The 2015 league Most Valuable Player is still unsigned. 

He might as well keep it that way.

Newton would be best served sitting out until demand for a veteran quarterback starter meets supply – namely, him. Accepting a low-paying backup role would limit his chances of actually playing in 2020, do little for his bank account and probably not help him in his eventual quest back to prominence.

It’s probably what he’s doing and why he hasn’t signed anywhere. If so, it makes sense.

Cam Newton was mostly all smiles in the 2015 season, when he was NFL MVP as Carolina's starting QB. (AP Photo/Michael Ainsworth)

The 30-year-old may not be what he once was, which was at times the most dominant player on the field. That doesn’t mean he can’t be a starter again, a winner again, a factor in the league again. 

When healthy, Newton can presumably still bring it. He was limited to just two games in 2019, but in 2018 he completed 67.9 percent of his passes and threw 24 touchdowns. It was a long way from 2015, but it’s not like the NFL is awash in competent quarterbacks. He’s better than some, maybe even most.

Right now no team appears willing to bet on him. Maybe it’s health. Maybe it’s the wear on the tires as he has taken some beatings. Maybe it’s the uncertainty of what he’d bring to the table. Maybe it’s the sideshow that can come along with him. 

Newton is a big personality, with unique skills. He’s probably best when a franchise can build around him, which isn’t something teams are currently willing to do.

Whatever it is, 32 teams feel good enough about their QB1 that Newton isn’t signed. That includes teams going with rookies, young guys, old guys and all sorts of guys in between. New England is even banking on fellow Auburn product Jarrett Stidham, who threw just four passes last year as a rookie. 

Might work. Might not. 

Newton isn’t the only former starter who saw his stock bottom out this offseason. 

Jameis Winston started 70 of 72 games the past five years in Tampa Bay only to be replaced by Tom Brady. He wound up signing a one-year deal as a backup in New Orleans for $1.1 million guaranteed.

Andy Dalton started 133 games over the past nine seasons in Cincinnati, only to be replaced by No. 1 overall draft pick Joe Burrow. Dalton wound up signing a one-year deal as a backup in Dallas for $3 million guaranteed. 

Neither could find a starting job. That was the best they could get. Newton’s market isn’t much different, but he’s a former MVP, not them.

Newton has made $121.4 million in salary alone the past nine years. There is plenty more in endorsements. So while $1.1 million (or even $7 million) is a lot of money, he can almost assuredly afford to sit and wait. 

If there is one thing about the NFL, it is that players get hurt, especially quarterbacks. What looks like a crowded market now will open up considerably and quickly once games are played. 

That’s where demand for a proven veteran will pick up. And the supply will be limited … essentially Newton and no one else. 

If a quality team in the middle of a promising season is desperate for a new quarterback, then balance of power flips and Newton can choose that franchise. Or continue to wait.

Signing with a single team that sees him as little more than insurance doesn’t make a lot of sense. If the starter plays well and stays healthy, then Cam never sees the field. 

It’s better for Newton to be the insurance plan for the entire league. Someone is going to need a QB. He’ll then have a chance to prove that he still has what it takes to win games and lead a team. If he does that, the offseason in 2021 looks a lot different than this humbling silence. 

Patience, in this case, could pay off for him.

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