By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — Things in the sports world can move quickly. One minute, you’re finding your footing after learning of Tom Brady’s decision to leave the Patriots. The next, you’re wondering if Cam Newton might be filling Brady’s Under Armour cleats in Foxboro.
We’ve explored the possibility before, but that was much more speculative; Brady was still under employ of the Patriots, and Newton may still have been the Panthers’ quarterback. But now it’s much more real, now that the Panthers have officially granted Newton permission to seek a trade.
Newton’s career in Carolina is all but over.
“One of the distinct pleasures of my career was selecting Cam with the first pick in the 2011 draft,” Panthers GM Marty Hurney said. “Every year difficult decisions are made and they are never easy. We have been working with Cam and his agent to find the best fit for him moving forward and he will always be a Carolina Panther in our hearts.”
Newton seemingly believes that the Panthers are giving him the boot, rather than the other way around.
Cam Newton says the Panthers "forced me into" trying to find a trade partner. Instagram comments in funky fonts. Welcome to 2020. pic.twitter.com/Iyjeo5FYlc
— Will Brinson (@WillBrinson) March 17, 2020
But the bottom line is that Newton is on the market.
Of course, the number of teams who would be in the market for a starting quarterback is limited. Considering Tuesday’s news, the Patriots seem to fit squarely into that group. (That is, unless Bill Belichick is all in on Jarrett Stidham. That … is a possibility. You never know with Bill Belichick.)
The question is, at this point in time, what is Cam Newton worth?
This is not the quarterback who won the MVP in 2015 after leading the Panthers to a 15-1 record and a Super Bowl appearance. This is the quarterback who, since that fateful year, has thrown 65 touchdowns and 44 interceptions while steering the Panthers to a 23-23 record and missing all but two games in 2019 due to a foot injury.
This is the quarterback who averaged 641 rushing yards and nine touchdowns per season from 2011-15, but averaged 534 rushing yards and five touchdowns per season from 2016-18.
Still, Newton would be intriguing for a number of reasons. Namely, he’s a big-name quarterback who would not be fazed by the prospect of stepping in for Tom Brady. At least … he would not be as fazed as most others.
Despite the injuries, Newton is still plenty young, as he’ll celebrate his 31st birthday in May.
CAM NEWTON, 2011-15
59.6 completion rate, 18,263 yards, 117 TDs, 64 INTs
599 rushes, 3,207 yards, 43 TDs
CAM NEWTON, 2016-19
59.6 completion rate, 10,778 yards, 65 TDs, 44 INTs
335 rushes, 1,599 yards, 15 TDs
Those injuries though, are significant. The days of Newton running from sideline to sideline, leaving a trail of a half-dozen helpless defenders in his wake, are likely over. The physical beating that Newton took as a Rob Gronkowski-sized quarterback led to the shoulder injury that affected his play in 2017 and 2018. The foot injury in 2019 further complicates matters.
Contract-wise, Newton may not make the most sense with a cap hit over $20 million in 2020. Adding in whatever the cost might be in acquiring him via trade, that might be too much. But if the Panthers end up releasing Newton, thus opening the door for a possible prove-it type of deal, the situation takes on a different shape.
So really, from a Patriots perspective, the question is simply this: Can Newton recapture the elements that made him an MVP, or are those days decidedly over?
If there’s a chance for the former to be true, then the 2020 Patriots could do a whole lot worse than Cam Newton as their quarterback.