Cam Newton is officially a free agent and due to the current quarterback situation, the LA Chargers have emerged as a potential fit.
Cam Newton’s tenure with the Carolina Panthers is officially over. While we all knew this was coming after the team signed Teddy Bridgewater, the Panthers officially released Newton on Tuesday after being unable to find a trade for the former MVP, per NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport. As a result, the LA Chargers have instantly been thrown into the conversation.
Newton’s free agency is an interesting situation as when he is healthy he is one of the most dynamic quarterbacks in the league. However, for the last season and a half, he has not been healthy, which has led to bad play and then no play in 2019.
We don’t have to look too far back to find a version of Newton that was still Pro Bowl-caliber. Newton was playing really good football in the first half of the 2018 season. Through the first eight games, Newton completed 67.3 percent of his passes for 1,893 yards with 15 touchdowns, four interceptions and a 100.8 passer rating.
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He also had 342 rushing yards and four rushing touchdowns. He was on pace to finish with over 3,700 passing yards and over 650 rushing yards, something that has only been done twice before in NFL history, both by Cam Newton.
Then he got banged up and the Pittsburgh Steelers seemingly sucked the life out of him on Thursday Night Football. The 6-2 Panthers went 1-7 in the final eight games, only beating the New Orleans Saints in Week 17 as they were resting their starters.
So the answer of the one thing that should stop the LA Chargers from signing Cam Newton would be his health, but it isn’t. In fact, all signs are pointing to Newton being healthy. According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, Newton had a physical on Monday coordinated by the Panthers and passed the physical with his foot and shoulder both ‘checking out’.
Is there a chance that Newton won’t be 100 percent in 2020? Sure, but even 80 percent of Newton is a risk worth taking — so what is the one thing that could stop this from happening?
The answer is money, and how long of a contract Newton wants. Even with his health appearing to be okay, the Chargers cannot and should not commit to Newton long-term. It is better for the long-term future of the franchise to draft a quarterback and let them grow and blossom behind a starter for a year before taking over the reins.
Simply put, Newton should only be brought in if he is a one-year, two at the absolute most, bridge quarterback to the future of the team. If that is his role, he needs to sign a small contract, something in the $5-8 million range.
Daniel Popper of The Athletic estimates that the Chargers have about $9 million in cap space after considering the 2020 NFL Draft pool. That means the team could afford a $5-9 million annual salary, especially if the team backloads it to year two to have a bigger cap hit when the cap goes up.
The Chargers could get savvy and only take on a $2-3 million cap hit this season and then take on a $12-15 million cap hit in 2021, which is doable as the cap is expected to spike and Tyrod Taylor’s $7.5 million will be off the books.
Could the LA Chargers get Cam Newton at this price?
Maybe. It all depends on his market but it does not appear to be a big one. With the 2020 NFL Draft and a more valuable quarterback in Jameis Winston still available, Newton might not have much of a market. That is apparent as the Panthers could not work out any sort of trade with him.
If there are no viable options, circa Teddy Bridgewater after his ACL tear, then a two-year, $16 million deal from the Chargers, with some incentives, might be the best offer. If Newton is asking for anything longer than two years and anything $20 million or above then the Chargers have to back out.
And would it be worth it? Absolutely. Newton has a much higher ceiling than Tyrod Taylor, which is evident from his MVP-winning season. If he can return to his old form, then it would make the LA Chargers an instant Super Bowl contender.
With the weapons on the team and Anthony Lynn’s scheming and desire for a mobile quarterback, Newton fits perfectly. And if he does not work out then the Chargers can simply resort back to Taylor, who is the plan as of right now, anyway.
Why not take the risk with the potentially higher ceiling? Sure, you could make the case that the Chargers should use that remaining cap space for another impact free agent. But as free agency goes long, there are not going to be many more impact free agents and the team could probably end up getting a discount on a decent veteran.
It is not like the team has a lot of massive holes on the roster and with all seven picks in the draft, they can fill the lesser holes in the later rounds. It is a gamble, sure, but the potential impact that Newton could have on the team over someone such as Taylor Gabriel, who will be the fifth target in the passing game, is exponential.
If the price is right then Cam Newton can come on down to the LA Chargers.