5 Trade Destinations for Cam Newton

Dan Mennella
January 22, 2020 - 12:15 pm
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The Carolina Panthers might be looking for their next Cam Newton, but first, they have to figure out what to do with Newton himself.

After nine seasons led by the tandem of quarterback Newton and head coach Ron Rivera, Carolina has moved on from Rivera and dipped into the college ranks to hire Matt Rhule away from Baylor. Rhule, 44, signed a seven-year contract, suggesting the Panthers want him for the long haul.

Whether the Panthers feel similarly about Newton is less clear. The 30-year-old former MVP was limited to two games in 2019 due to a foot injury that eventually required surgery, marking the first time in his career he’s played fewer than 14 games. Now, Newton is entering the final year of his contract before potentially becoming a free agent, and a December report suggested the Panthers would be seeking a “large trade deal” for him this offseason.

There would likely be interest in a quarterback as accomplished as Newton at any time, but especially so now. Change is in the air in the NFL this offseason, particularly at the quarterback position, where the New England Patriots, New Orleans Saints, and Los Angeles Chargers might finally be moving on from franchise icons. Several others, too, will be in the quarterback market amid rebuilds, or to simply improve on an underperformer.

Here’s five teams who could make a run at Newton:

Anthony Lynn
Anthony Lynn Photo credit Getty Images

Los Angeles Chargers

The Chargers are confronted with replacing a fixture at quarterback in Philip Rivers. The 38-year-old confirmed he would like to continue playing, but acknowledged it might not be in Los Angeles: “As long as someone wants me, I’ll be playing somewhere.”

The Chargers are 26-22 with two winning seasons and a playoff berth in three years under head coach Anthony Lynn. Lynn has done a nice job leading the franchise’s relocation from San Diego to Los Angeles, but now he must lead a post-Rivers transition. The Chargers are only a year removed from the playoffs, with a veteran roster, so drafting and developing a rookie starting quarterback might not be the best fit.

Newton would be a fine gamble on one-year audition, with the possibility of locking him up for multiple years if he performs well. In many ways the Chargers have yet to develop an identity since moving--they still feel like the Rivers-led San Diego Chargers. Putting Newton under center would go a long way toward changing that.

Bill Belichick
Bill Belichick Photo credit Getty Images

New England Patriots

Tom Brady’s illustrious career appears to be coming to an end—his Patriots career, that is. After 20 seasons in New England, 42-year-old Brady is a free agent and signaling his intent to play again in 2020—and perhaps beyond. The Pats have been characteristically quiet about their plans, and while a recent report suggests neither side is ruling out a return, Brady is apparently excited to experience free agency for the first time.

There’s no telling exactly how the Patriots will respond if Brady departs, but it’s hard to envision head coach Bill Belichick taking on a full rebuild at age 68. Belichick has little to prove after five Super Bowl titles, but perhaps he’d like to settle the matter of whether he can win without Brady. The Patriots have made a habit of scooping up elite talent who, for one reason or another, have shaken loose from their teams, and Newton would certainly fit that bill. He’s nothing like Brady—on or off the field—but the Pats’ calling card under Belichick has been flexibility and adaptability.

Bruce Arians
Bruce Arians Photo credit Getty Images

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The Bucs might have been an ideal trade partner for Carolina were it not for the obvious fact that they play in the same division. If the Panthers trade away their franchise quarterback, it stands to reason they would prefer not to play him twice next season.

Otherwise, there appears to be a sensible fit. The Bucs seem lukewarm on former No. 1 overall pick Jameis Winston, who is now a free agent.
Winston has shown flashes in his four years as a pro but has also been an interception machine. The sides did not even discuss the prospect of an extension during the season, a strong signal that a parting of ways could be in the offing.

Recent reports have linked the Bucs to Rivers, which makes sense given coach Bruce Arians’ success in Arizona with a veteran quarterback in Carson Palmer. Even still, Newton’s dynamic skillset--a cannon arm and the ability to pick up yards with his legs--would probably be enticing for the offensive-minded Arians.

Mitchell Trubisky
Mitchell Trubisky Photo credit Getty Images

Chicago Bears

Soon after Newton was placed on the season-ending IR in November, he was reportedly said to “welcome” the prospect of an offseason trade to Chicago. The Bears appear to be a good fit on paper, a win-now team with some hefty contracts, a stingy defense, and a glaring need at quarterback. Mitchell Trubisky was among the bottom-third of QBs by most measures last season, and while team officials have said they are planning on Trubisky returning as starter, it would be malpractice not to at least check in on Newton should the Panthers shop him.

Drew Lock
Drew Lock Photo credit Getty Images

Denver Broncos

The Broncos have struggled to find a successor to Peyton Manning. The future is uncertain for 35-year-old Joe Flacco, whose playing days may be over as he faces possible neck surgery. Drew Lock, a second-round pick last year, is the nominal starter heading into 2020 after posting modest production in five games as a rookie.

The Broncos are proceeding as if Lock is their guy, bringing in new offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur to help develop him, which makes sense since Lock is their best option currently on the roster. But Denver would have to check in on Newton as a matter of due diligence, if nothing else.

The Broncos have long been one of the more stable franchises in the NFL, but the recent death of owner Pat Bowlen and subsequent reports of a possible sale make it tough to get a read on the organization’s overall direction. Amid such uncertainty, Newton could be an enticing short-term proposition for GM John Elway.

Also in the Mix

The New Orleans Saints, another of Carolina’s division rivals, could be in the market for a quarterback with both Drew Brees and backup Teddy Bridgewater being free agents. Brees had a terrific season despite a mediocre performance in a playoff loss to the Vikings, so I’d expect him back in New Orleans if he returns. The Tennessee Titans could also be looking for a QB if they can’t reach a deal with Ryan Tannehill, but both sides have expressed interest in getting something done. Tannehill rejuvenated his career with the Titans, so it looks like he’ll stay there. The team that cut Tannehill, the Miami Dolphins, needs help just about everywhere, and could be a dark horse for Newton’s services as a one-year stop gap while they build for the future. The Fins have three first-round draft picks.

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