Cam Newton Prop Bet: Which Team Will Sign the Former MVP?
It's remarkable how quickly the sports world forgets about past achievements while constantly looking toward the future.
It's been only five years since Cam Newton was named the NFL MVP while leading the Carolina Panthers to a 15-1 record and a Super Bowl appearance, yet here we are, with Newton currently a free agent and almost assuredly not going to be a starting quarterback for beginning of the 2020 season.
In fairness to Newton, injuries have slowed down his career in recent years, whatever your opinion is on how the Panthers handled the whole situation. He hurt his shoulder in 2016, had issues with the same shoulder again in the middle of 2018 and then missed most of last season with a Lisfranc foot injury. Any team has the right -- and obligation, most would argue -- to run a thorough physical on any player coming off surgery like Newton had, but due to the pandemic, no one could actually send their doctors to examine Newton in person once he was released by the Panthers in March.
If the Instagram videos are to be believed, Newton is close to -- if not at -- 100 percent and looking stronger than ever, so it's hard to believe he won't be on an NFL roster this season. Over at FanDuel Sportsbook, you can wager on which team Newton will be on for Week 1 this season. Here's a look at the three most likely landing spots of the 10 options FanDuel is offering.
Washington is the favorite to land Newton mostly because the franchise recently hired Ron Rivera as its new head coach -- along with the team's quarterback situation being fairly weak. Newton was Rivera's Week 1 starter for all nine seasons in Carolina after the Panthers selected Newton with the first overall pick prior to Rivera's first season in charge. If anyone knows Newton the football player, it's Rivera, who led the Panthers to the playoffs four times in a five-year stretch with Newton at the helm.
A healthy Newton would certainly be an upgrade at the quarterback position over anyone else on Washington's roster -- assuming Alex Smith cannot return. In 2018, Newton played 14 games and recorded a Passing Net Expected Points (NEP) per drop back of 0.12, which ranked 19th among the 35 signal callers with at least 200 drop backs that season. That 0.12 clip blows Haskins' 2019 Passing NEP per drop back of -0.11 out of the water, and it's better than any single-season clip from any Washington starting quarterbacks since Kirk Cousins had a 0.24 mark in 2016.
The issue, of course, is it seems like Washington is committed to at least giving Dwayne Haskins a chance to be the franchise quarterback they projected him to be when they drafted him in the first round in 2019. Signing Newton would likely mean relegating Haskins back to the bench, and while you could argue that might suit Haskins given his rookie-year woes, Washington -- as of now -- appears committed to Haskins.
Pittsburgh Steelers (+450)
To me, the Pittsburgh Steelers are the most logical landing spot of the 10 choices FanDuel Sportsbook is offering on this bet. The Steelers were good enough to make the playoffs last season despite Ben Roethlisberger getting hurt in the second game, but poor quarterback play ended up costing them a spot in the postseason.
With Big Ben in the fold, the Steelers are a Super Bowl contender with the talent they have throughout the roster, and a good backup quarterback would be an insurance policy against have to go through what they went through in 2019 with Devlin Hodges or Mason Rudolph at the helm.
In just two games last season, Newton amassed more total Passing NEP (-3.71) than either Hodges (-19.87) or Rudolph (-9.92) did all season. If you combine both Hodges' and Rudolph's stats from 2019, they threw the fourth-most interceptions in the league while tying for 26th in touchdown passes -- yet Pittsburgh still found a way to win eight games.
This is Newton's version of Jameis Winston's situation, where he willingly goes to a team as the backup in hopes of learning and growing as a quarterback while setting himself up to potentially be a starter down the road -- either for the franchise or for someone else. Roethlisberger is 38 years old, and with his injury history, it's fair to question how much longer he'll play in the league. In Newton, Pittsburgh could add a veteran presence who can help keep the team competitive if Big Ben goes down during the season or retires after 2020.
Jacksonville Jaguars (+750)
Although there are plenty of teams that don't know who their starting quarterback will be, most of the training camp quarterback battles already have their participants. It's why I eliminated the Chicago Bears (+750) and New England Patriots (+500) from this list, because both of them seem pretty set with letting the quarterbacks on their roster fight it out to be the starter. Then there's a team like the Seattle Seahawks (+500), who would be bringing in Newton as an insurance option behind a proven starter, but Russell Wilson is the same age as Newton, so Newton's chance to become the full-time starter there anytime soon is slim.
Then there are teams like the Denver Broncos (+500) and the Jacksonville Jaguars, squads that have decided to test their luck with second-year quarterbacks who had some success last season. Both teams could use a veteran presence like Newton to help with their young quarterback.
Jacksonville has Mike Glennon as their backup while Denver has Jeff Driskel. Newton's name still has some sway in SEC country, and Newton signing could be a way to try to appease fans in the midst of a 12-month stretch that has seen the Jags part with some of their best talent. So for that reason alone, Jacksonville is on my list.
Sleeper: San Francisco 49ers (+2000)
OK, so stick with me here.
Ever the offensive innovator, coach Kyle Shanahan asks general manager John Lynch to go sign Newton so that he can borrow a page from Sean Payton and add a new wrinkle to his playbook. Newton goes to the San Francisco 49ers with the promise that he will actually see the field this season and becomes the 49ers' version of Taysom Hill. It may not be as large of a role as Hill has in New Orleans, but it gives Newton a chance to prove -- in an actual game -- that he still has what it takes to be a starter in the NFL, opening the door for him in 2021, when the next round of quarterback shuffling occurs.
Coming off an appearance in the Super Bowl, the 49ers clearly don't need to add much to stay as a contender. They were the second-best scoring offense and fourth-best total offense last season. It's the reason why the odds on Newton going to San Francisco are so high (+2000), but Newton would add a different flair to the offense, which might take some pressure off Jimmy Garoppolo.
If Newton does sign with a team before the start of the season, I think it'll either be the Steelers or an unforeseen squad who needs a quarterback due to injury. Given my options, I'm taking the Steelers at +450 to be the team to have Newton on the roster for Week 1.
The marriage between Pittsburgh and Newton makes too much sense on paper, because it both fills a need for the Steelers -- keeping them from cratering offensively if Big Ben gets hurt -- and brings Newton to a model organization that will take care of him. Newton could also even add something to the Steelers' offense as a change-of-pace quarterback if Pittsburgh wants to get creative with their play-calling.