By: Jesse Patterson  June 22nd 2020

One of the bigger names still available in free agency is former Panthers quarterback Cam Newton. His market up until this point has been suspiciously quiet, possibly due to his wanting a shot at a starting gig, though recent reports suggest otherwise. A few teams have been linked to the 2015 NFL MVP but no contract offers have materialized. I decided to do a quick series of articles imagining a scenario where Newton ended up with each NFL team. Many of these are unlikely scenarios relying on injuries or unknown situations, but it was a fun exercise. Will any of these situations play out and will Cam find a home prior to the start of NFL activities? Only time will tell. Today we examine the NFC South Teams.

Carolina Panthers

I am and always have been a Teddy Bridgewater fan. I was happy to have him as the quarterback for my favorite team, the Vikings, one of the few times in recent history I have been satisfied with the team’s direction at the position. When he suffered his nearly-career ending knee injury in August of 2016, I was rooting for him to somehow defeat the odds and make a comeback. So in March when Bridgewater agreed to a three year $63 million contract with the Carolina Panthers, and the Panthers subsequent release of long-time starter Cam Newton, I was thrilled for him. Last season, over nine games with the Saints, Bridgewater was a serviceable starting option, completing 133 of 196 attempts, 1384 yards, and 9 passing touchdowns. Currently backing Teddy up is 2019 3rd round selection Will Grier. Last season, when Newton went down to injury, Grier put very little pressure on default starter Kyle Allen, despite Allen’s average-at-best play. When finally given the opportunity to start late in the season, Grier managed to complete 27 of 44 passes, was intercepted three times, and looked completely unready to handle the offense of an NFL team. Another offseason in the system, albeit one under a new coaching regime will hopefully give young Grier the confidence to at least be a serviceable backup to Bridgewater. If the organization isn’t satisfied with what they see, could they be tempted to bring back a familiar face, and Carolina institution in Cam Newton? Newton would certainly know the city, the fans, and most of the existing receiving weapons and wouldn’t take long to get up to speed. He would also likely be much more affordable the second time around. The only hangup would be if the current coaching staff feels this would show a lack of trust in their new hand-chosen starter in Bridgewater.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Tampa Bay shocked the football world when they announced the signing of future Hall of Famer Tom Brady to be their quarterback for the 2020 season. The Buccaneers then doubled down and lured one of Brady’s favorite targets - Rob Gronkowski - out of retirement to join the 42-year-old signal caller in Florida. The game plan appears to be an all-out run at a title this year. Backing up Brady is career journeyman backup Blaine Gabbert, after Tampa re-signed Gabbert earlier this offseason. Gabbert missed the 2019 season due to a shoulder injury, robbing him of an opportunity to suit up for his fourth franchise in four seasons. Put mildly, Gabbert is nothing more than a low-end backup option, and with Tampa Bay being ‘all in’ this season, the prospect of him making important valuable starts in 2020 should terrify the coaching staff. Should Brady suffer even a minor health setback or not be able to stand up to the rigors of a full NFL season and suit up for all sixteen games, one would think the Bucs would look to find someone a little more capable in his absence. Cam Newton has spent his entire career facing this organization twice a season. He would have some familiarity with the team and as a former MVP himself, would likely be better able to take advantage of throwing to stud options like Gronkowski, Mike Evans, and Chris Godwin. It would take a Brady injury, but Newton would certainly have some fantasy appeal in the Buccaneers offense.

New Orleans Saints

Drew Brees is the unquestioned starter in New Orleans, having agreed to a new two year deal earlier this year. Should the 41-year-old choose to retire following the 2020 season, or in the event he experiences injury issues like he did in 2019, the Saints brought in former Tampa Bay starter Jameis Winston on a one-year pact to serve as Brees’ understudy and possibly be groomed to start next season. New Orleans had a similar tactic last season when they re-signed Teddy Bridgewater as the backup, which proved savvy as Bridgewater ended up making significant starts for the Saints. Bridgewater reportedly turned down a chance to sign as the starter in Miami in favor of being Brees’ backup and the gamble paid off, as he is now the starter in division rival Carolina. Some believe Jameis Winston is pulling a similar move, hoping to recoup some of his free agent appeal with good showing in Louisiana leading to a strong market and demand for his services down the road in 2021. There isn’t much of a fit here for Cam Newton, barring a long-term injury to either Brees or Winston, and even then Taysom Hill is still lurking around and is technically a quarterback. For the sake of this article series, I would instead like to point out that the Saints’ model of signing viable starting options as backups is a proven and reliable system that more teams should be utilizing. With Cam Newton sitting there in free agency, it’s actually surprising someone hasn’t decided yet to copycat New Orleans’ model and bring Newton into the fold. If anything, the Saints’ quarterback depth chart model was my inspiration for this entire exercise. 

Atlanta Falcons

When researching this article, I was shocked to learn that Matt Schaub is not only still in the NFL, but has been Matt Ryan’s backup in Atlanta for the past four seasons! In 2019, the former Texans starter actually played well when pressed into action against Seattle in Week 8, completing 39 of 52 passes for 460 yards, one touchdown, and one interception. Ryan meanwhile has been the picture of health since entering the league in 2008, only missing 3 of a possible 192 regular season games over his career. With a serviceable backup in place, a perennially healthy starter under contract through the 2023 season, and limited salary cap space, the Falcons seem to be the least likely of the four NFC South teams to have a need for Cam Newton’s services. The only scenario that I can envision him joining Atlanta would be a major injury to either of the Matts, or a truly horrendous offseason/preseason by the reliable and affordable Schaub. Schaub is scheduled to become a free agent following the 2020 season, so perhaps the Falcons take a shot at Newton at that time if he is still looking for work. I severely doubt he makes it that long as a free agent, given his talent and what are sure to be several more enticing options before that time.