The Carolina Panthers have finally moved move on from their best player in franchise history.
On March 17, the team announced that they had given permission for Cam Newton to seek a trade, and after being unable to find a partner in a week, they released him on Tuesday. Carolina started the offseason with a recent MVP at quarterback and ended it without one and only cap savings to show for it.
In his stead, the Panthers signed former Saints and Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater to a three-year, $63 million deal with $30 million guaranteed.
The Panthers were unable to find a suitor for Newton for largely the same reason that he will no longer be their starting quarterback: health. A foot injury sidelined him for 14 games last year, and his shoulder had been balky the previous season. Add in the fact that teams are hesitant to travel during the COVID-19 outbreak, and no team was willing to trade much of value to Carolina because they weren't confident enough that Newton will be healthy enough to play.
Still, Newton has great potential if and when he can return to the field. He won an MVP award in a 15-1 Super Bowl run in 2015 and has been one of the league's most electrifying players since the Panthers drafted him No. 1 overall in 2011. He may not be the runner he once was when he was named Offensive Rookie of the Year, but he's still one of the most athletic signal-callers in the league and won't turn 31 until May.
Timing may not be on Newton's side, as plenty of teams have signed starting quarterbacks in free agency, including the Colts (Philip Rivers), Buccaneers (Tom Brady), and Titans (Ryan Tannehill). Still, there is no shortage of teams for which Newton is a short- and long-term upgrade.
New England Patriots
With the Patriots saying goodbye to one MVP, there may be no easier way to move on than by bringing in another one. It's unclear if Newton will be better than Tom Brady in 2020, but he's certainly a better long-term investment.
Newton isn't quite as safe with the ball as Brady has been the last few years, but an athletic, dynamic quarterback may be just what the Patriots need to jump-start their offense. New England's receiving corps is not very good, and Newton is already used to making lemonade out of lemons after years of passing to Brandon LaFell, Ted Ginn Jr., and Devin Funchess.
The Patriots are optimistic about second-year signal-caller Jarrett Stidham's long-term prospects and have already brought in Brian Hoyer for a third time. But Hoyer is just a prototypical backup, and Stidham likely isn't ready for the spotlight this season, so a one-year, prove-it contract in New England may be just what the doctor ordered.
The Bears have made no secret of the fact that they want to address the quarterback position, although they say they remain committed to Mitchell Trubisky. They've already traded a fourth-round pick for Nick Foles and his albatross of a contract, although he's more of a steady lateral move than a long-term upgrade.
Newton would instantly become the most talented quarterback in Bears franchise history, and he could quickly become the missing piece to unlocking this NFC North contender. The defense is still strong, and there are weapons on offense between Allen Robinson II, David Montgomery, Tarik Cohen, and Anthony Miller. The talent is there to build a scary team.
Los Angeles Chargers
The Chargers don't have to replace Philip Rivers through free agency since they are in position to take his successor with the No. 6 overall pick in the draft: Justin Herbert. Still, they have the talent to compete for one of the three Wild Card spots, at least, with strong quarterback play that they probably won't get out of a rookie.
If Newton hits free agency, Los Angeles could be a good destination because they have the strongest group of skill position players with Keenan Allen, Mike Williams, and Austin Ekeler, along with the possibility of Melvin Gordon and Hunter Henry returning in free agency.
Washington just invested a first-round pick in Dwayne Haskins, but there's a long history of teams bailing on first-round picks when better options come around. This connection will be hard to avoid with head coach Ron Rivera hopping from Carolina to the nation's capital. Plenty of former Panthers have found their ways to Washington or Buffalo, where former Carolina defensive coordinator Sean McDermott is the head coach, and Rivera already traded for Newton's backup, Kyle Allen.
If Washington signs Newton, the team can give him a one-year try-out to see if he's worth a long-term commitment and deal Haskins for a lesser return than the 15th overall pick they used on him if they're content. Otherwise, it could be a cheap flier while they give Haskins a good mentor. The Allen trades makes a Newton fit a little harder, but as the Panthers indicated, Allen ideally not anyone's long-term solution.
Chances are the Dolphins will not sign a new starting quarterback in free agency when they can draft former Alabama star Tua Tagovailoa with the No. 5 overall pick. He's immensely talented and was considered the runaway No. 1 pick before his hip injury. However, there's always a chance that his medical comes up with red flags or another team hops them in the draft order.
If the Dolphins bring in Newton, they could use their top-five pick on another elite player like Jeff Okudah or Isaiah Simmons. They've already shown they're ready to spend by signing free agents Byron Jones, Shaq Lawson, Kyle Van Noy, and Ereck Flowers. Adding Newton could put them into a win-now mode in a suddenly wide-open AFC East.