The LA Chargers are heading into a 2020 season that is much more important than some may realize. The team has to be successful this year, so taking a risk on Cam Newton should be the plan.
The LA Chargers are coming off of a disappointing 2019 season in which the team found a new way to lose almost every single week and finished with a 5-11 record. The team was unlucky both on the field and in the injury report, and saw the biggest difference in losses in the league, going from four to 11.
The front office is already hard at work to make sure that 2020 is different. General manager Tom Telesco has made several key additions to the team and has bolstered the right side of the offensive line, improved the secondary and defensive line and has retained some key figures.
Everything Telesco has done thus far has been great, but it has been aggressive. While the front office is not trading draft picks or endangering the future, it definitely is making moves that insinuate that that team wants to win now.
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This might seem to contradict based on the direction the Chargers are going at quarterback. Philip Rivers has moved on to the Indianapolis Colts and Tyrod Taylor is currently slated to be the starting quarterback, with the expectation being that he will be a bridge option to a rookie quarterback selected in 2020.
That could be a winning formula. Alex Smith made the playoffs with the Kansas City Chiefs in 2017 and then turned the franchise over to Patrick Mahomes. Mahomes’ traditional rookie season was not as important to the Chiefs as 2020 is to the Chargers, though.
The 2020 season represents a fork in the road for the Chargers. Is the team going to continue to succeed and carve out a multi-year contention window? Or are they going to keep riding this wave of disappointing seasons and hope the ship turns around sooner rather than later?
The better answer is obviously the former, which is why the LA Chargers should sign Cam Newton. I know what you’re thinking: bum shoulder, not a traditional passer, bad fashion sense — all of that holds some merit.
And in no way am I saying signing Cam Newton is a guaranteed path to victory, it’s not. We have seen MVP-level Cam and we have seen mediocre-level Cam, and it is impossible to really tell which version the Chargers will get because he has not been fully healthy in a season and a half.
What is true of Newton is that he has a higher ceiling than Tyrod Taylor. It is irrefutable that Newton at his best it better than Taylor at his best. The caveat is that we haven’t seen Newton at his best in quite some time, but we also have not seen Taylor as a long-term starter since 2017.
So why is it so important to win in 2020?
The LA Chargers have a lot of uncertainties after the 2020 season, mostly in the team’s free-agent class. Keenan Allen, Joey Bosa, Hunter Henry, Melvin Ingram, Mike Pouncey, Denzel Perryman, Mike Williams (with a fifth-year club option), Virgil Green, Rayshawn Jenkins and Desmond King are all free agents after this season.
Now, chances are that the Chargers are able to retain most of those guys, or at least the ones that Telesco thinks is still serviceable to the team. The problem lies in the star players — Allen, Bosa, Ingram, Henry.
While they all seem to love LA now, another disappointing season in which the team underperforms is not going to help those chances. As a free agent, why would Bosa sign with the Chargers if he could sign for the same amount of money with the San Francisco 49ers, where his brother plays and is a Super Bowl contender?
That is not going to be true with all players. Someone like Allen may simply want to be a Charger for life, which is possible. But the team could potentially lose a big chunk of its contending core this season and having a losing season is not going to help the matters.
Fans are talking about re-signing Bosa and company like it is a guarantee. It’s not. The ball is in the players’ court, not the team’s.
Does this mean the team is destined to fail with Tyrod Taylor? Not at all. But taking the risk on the higher ceiling of Newton, knowing that Taylor will be there as a just in case option, is the much better route.
Of course, the contract would have to be ideal for the Chargers. It would have to be an incentive-laden deal for a season, which is probably something Newton would be willing to take as the QB market has seemingly all but dissolved.
The team cannot afford to accept 2020 as a transition year, not when the roster is so talented and a lot of it is not even guaranteed after this season.
Don’t do anything to risk maintaining the roster in the future, but take the risk to maximize the return. That is what Cam Newton presents to the LA Chargers.