The Los Angeles Chargers have been heavily connected to Cam Newton with the one underlying question being how much Newton would cost the team.
Cam Newton is a free agent for the first time in his career and out of every team in the NFL, the Los Angeles Chargers have been drawing the most connections. Despite reports that the team is not interested, we cannot rule out Newton going to the Chargers until he signs elsewhere.
There is one caveat with Newton coming to the Chargers: the price. Yes, he is coming off several injuries and that could scare the team away, but if his price gets to the point where it does not restrict the team in any way then it would be foolish to pass on him.
Newton essentially brings a higher ceiling to the Chargers at the quarterback position. He is not guaranteed to be a better quarterback than Tyrod Taylor, but he absolutely has the higher ceiling. Newton is someone you could make it to the Super Bowl with, Taylor has not proven anything that he is capable of doing that.
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The perfect part about planning to go with Newton is that he gives the team a higher upside and if he doesn’t work out then the Chargers can simply turn to Taylor as the backup option.
Right now, according to Over the Cap, the Chargers have $21.8 million in salary-cap space. After the 2020 NFL Draft, that will dwindle to around $9.5-11 million. Could the Chargers sign Newton to a deal under this cap? History says probably.
There are three important things to note about Cam Newton: first, we have not seen him fully healthy since October 2018. While the Chargers would be signing him in the hopes that he is healthy, this naturally is going to drive down his price.
Second, there are not many teams that need a quarterback right now and Newton is the second-most valuable quarterback on the market behind Jameis Winston. With limited fits, another quarterback ahead of him and the 2020 NFL Draft, there are not many suitors for Newton.
Third, Newton is more than likely going to take a one-year deal. It makes more sense from Newton’s standpoint to sign a one-year deal instead of locking in for three-four years for significantly less than he would get if he plays great in 2020 and gets new contract offers.
The Chargers are arguably the best fit for a quarterback that only wants a one-year home. The Chargers need someone to be a bridge-gap quarterback to the future, similar to what Philip Rivers is doing for the Indianapolis Colts.
There is also the talk about needs. The Chargers could improve at wide receiver, cornerback, guard, tackle and defensive tackle, to name a few positions.
Depending on what Newton signs for, the Chargers could absolutely sign a value free agent at this point in free agency to help one of those needs and draft an adequate third receiver in the mid-rounds of the 2020 NFL Draft.
Even if the team did not make any improvements to those positions they would not be awful. They need depth, sure, but if you are passing on Newton for a second-string right guard then I don’t know what to say.
Trey Pipkins is not an awful choice to start at right tackle, Dan Feeney and Forrest Lamp will compete for left guard, the team still has two very solid corners starting in Chris Harris and Casey Hayward and Linval Joseph is already a big help at defensive tackle. This is before the team makes additions in the draft.
So that leads us to the initial question:
How much could the Los Angeles Chargers sign Cam Newton for?
The most recent contract to take as an example is the contract that Teddy Bridgewater signed with the New York Jets after missing time due to a torn ACL. Bridgewater may not have been a former MVP, but he was younger than Newton is right now and was still a Pro Bowler before being hurt.
Bridgewater’s base salary was $6 million with only $1 million being guaranteed. He also had $9 million worth of playing-time incentives that could have made the contract worth $15 million.
Bridgewater ended up being traded to the New Orleans Saints, but only cost the Jets’ $1 million in cap space and the Saints’ $2.2 million in cap space.
The Los Angeles Chargers would essentially structure the exact same contract with Newton. Yes, Newton has an MVP under his belt and is more accomplished than Bridgewater was when he signed his deal, but Newton is also older and has more question marks around his health than Bridgewater did.
Because of that, we could probably see a similar contract in terms of value for Newton.
Cam Newton Proposal
Cam Newton signs a one-year, $5 million contract with half ($2.5 million) being guaranteed. The contract also has $12 million worth of ‘Not Likely To Be Earned’ (that’s important) incentives, raising the total value to $17 million for one season. It is important to note what these incentives would be and this would be our proposed list:
- $250,000 each start (up to $4 million)
- $1 million for 3,500 passing yards, $1 million for 4,000 passing yards
- $1 million for 500 rushing yards, $1 million for 600 rushing yards
- $500,000 for 25 combined touchdowns, $500,000 for 35 combined touchdowns
- $1 million for 300 completions
- $2 million if the Los Angeles Chargers win 10+ games with Newton starting
If Newton hits all of those things then he obviously had a great season, the Chargers won more than 10 games and he would be worth the extra cap hit. However, since his incentives are ‘Not Likely To Be Earned,’ they would affect 2021’s cap, not 2020’s.
The cap is expected to spike and the team would be freeing up $7.5 million in Taylor alone. They would be able to afford the extra $12 million to Newton, assuming he plays to the absolute best of his ability.
It is a great chance for Cam Newton to bet on himself and an even better chance for the Los Angeles Chargers to take a risk on a former MVP.