Cam Newton’s release from the Panthers creates intrigue for a potential signing by the LA Chargers, but his health won’t change.
The #Panthers tried to send Cam Newton to the #Bears and #Chargers. They found no takers and at this point, no starting jobs available. Release was the only option. Carolina has just $2M in dead money with this release, but Cam is now free.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) March 24, 2020
After failing to find a trade partner, the Panthers had no choice to release their former franchise quarterback. At this point, it seems like all the starting quarterback gigs are filled. Newton is hoping to find a backup role that opens up a potential path to becoming a starter for a team again.
The Chargers trading for Newton never made sense. Why would the team take on a 21 million dollar cap hit and give up a mid-round draft pick? His release makes it more interesting though. He could potentially be signed as a backup for Tyrod Taylor and maybe win the job in training camp or over the course of the preseason.
Perhaps the Chargers do their due diligence and decide to pursue Newton. At his peak, he was one of the most gifted NFL talents with killer athleticism and efficiency. In his MVP season, he threw 35 touchdowns and just 10 interceptions.
Theoretically, if he’s healthy, he could return to that form. Newton’s popularity and fame could also create a business opportunity with the LA Chargers by attracting the Los Angeles market to the team.
While the hypothetical of Newton one day reaching 80-100% of his former MVP level sounds appealing, it’s unlikely to work out in reality. Fans want to remember how great Newton’s MVP season was, but sometimes fail to talk about what the last four years have been.
From 2016-2019, Newton has thrown 65 touchdowns and 44 interceptions. His passer rating in that time frame was 82.6, exactly six points below the league average of 88.6.
Newton has now had two shoulder surgeries since 2017. One was to repair a torn rotator cuff while the other was an arthroscopic procedure. He really hasn’t been the same since the first surgery, as the statistics bear out.
Now we’re talking about a version of Newton that’s going to be 31 heading into the 2020 season. While that’s not traditionally an old age for quarterbacks in this era, it is harder to keep recovering from injuries when playing over 30.
The other part of this is what the Chargers intend to do in the draft. The overwhelming likelihood is that they will take a quarterback, despite some other elite talents they may consider. While first-round quarterbacks are cheap relative to quarterbacks who receive massive extensions, they still come with a price.
Newton would be the last signing of free agency with a $5-7 million cap hit as a backup quarterback. It simply doesn’t make sense to use the money for him if the team is drafting a first-round quarterback. If the plan is to not take a quarterback, perhaps it’s a different story.
The Chargers plugged some of their holes in free agency, but there’s still quality free agents that can provide depth for positions of need. Paying Newton is effectively ending free agency, even when the team is clearly looking for some under the radar talent like Nick Vigil and Donald Parham. Both were signed Tuesday.
One argument that fans want to make is that Newton is better than Taylor. For his career, that’s true. But when looking at both of them over the last few years, it’s clear Taylor has been more efficient.
In the same period of time where Newton logged an 82.6 passer rating, Taylor had an 87.2, which is much closer to the league average. Taylor’s touchdown to interception ratio was 2.75. Newton, whose inaccuracy has gone up with his injuries, has a 1.4 ratio.
Those numbers, in particular, are crucial to the success of the Chargers. The team struggled in 2019 because of how often Philip Rivers was turning the ball over. Taylor may not be the elite athlete Newton was at his peak, but he’s demonstrated an ability to take care of the football while being efficient. We haven’t seen that from Newton since 2015 or 2016.
While the idea of Newton finding his form again sounds great, it’s simply not likely to happen. He was declining after the first shoulder surgery before having the second one in 2019. Even in comparison to Taylor, his recent performance and efficiency leave a lot to be desired.
The LA Chargers are likely drafting a quarterback anyway in 2020, and it’s hard to see where Newton really fits in that equation since the rookie quarterback could be the backup anyway. They are still going after depth players in free agency, which the signing of Newton would prevent them from doing.
Newton may work out as a backup somewhere, but his health, as well as the plan for the Chargers going forward, are two big reasons he won’t find success in Los Angeles.