Where will Cam Newton play in 2021? Best landing spots for Patriots QB in NFL free agency

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Cam Newton hopes that he still won’t be left standing when quarterbacks around the league play a wild game of musical chairs during the 2021 NFL offseason. Newton’s starting stint with the Patriots is likely finished after one season and he will go into free agency for a second consecutive year.

Newton, the first overall draft pick in 2011 and league MVP in 2015, is at another career crossroads at age 31 after being released by the Panthers in 2020. He can’t waste more time thinking about that trash-talking kid because he has to be hyper-focused in trying to land with a third team.

The question is, after disappointing as a starter in New England, can Newton find another such job elsewhere or settle for a high-end backup role to stay in the league? Per The Boston Globe via NFL.com, Newton made some candid remarks toward that end on former NFL wide receiver Brandon Marshall’s “I Am Athlete” podcast

“I can’t go out like that. I hear all of that talk. My pride won’t allow me to do it. There aren’t 32 guys better than me,” Newton said on the show, noting that his late signing by New England in June plus various challenges related to COVID-19 prevented him from performing at his desired high level.

Here’s where Newton would fit best to extend his career, using a process of elimination.

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Teams that won’t sign Cam Newton

AFC: Patriots, Jets, Dolphins, Ravens, Bengals, Browns, Texans, Colts, Jaguars, Chiefs, Chargers

NFC: Cowboys, Eagles, Lions, Packers, Falcons, Panthers, Saints, Buccaneers, Rams, Seahawks, 49ers

If you’re keeping score, that would be 22 of the NFL’s 32 teams right off the top. The Patriots and Panthers were the free spaces. Newton doesn’t feel like a fit as a backup for teams that have clear new starters — either promising rookies-to-be or second-year players from the draft or recent trade acquisitions. There also are a lot of systems here in which Newton woudn’t operate well. There’s a carryover, too, with teams not interested in him last year still not having any reason to be interested this year.

This group also includes rebuilding or salary-cap teams who need to focus their resources elsewhere, even though it would be rather cheap to sign Newton. Overall for Newton, none of these teams are good fits for him to start or be the right No. 2.

Teams that shouldn’t think about signing Cam Newton

Steelers: Pittsburgh may be splitting from Ben Roethlisberger in one way or another. But between in-house, the trade market, free agency and the draft, the Steelers can explore several better replacement options. They could have stashed Newton behind Roethlisberger last year as contingency for the latter’s return from a right elbow injury and didn’t. Between Newton and Jameis Winston, should the Steelers be more desperate for a veteran starter, the latter has more appeal in their offense.

Raiders: Will Las Vegas deal Derek Carr? That question is getting tiresome as Carr continues to play well and defense, not offense, is the real issue for Jon Gruden’s team. Newton is a different style of QB from Carr, from the perspectives of personality, mind-set and skill set. The Raiders would be better off re-signing Marcus Mariota, who proved he has supersub potential when healthy.

MORE: Ranking the NFL’s top 50 free agents for 2021

Teams that should think about signing Cam Newton as a backup

Bills: The Bills are in the market for a new No. 2 behind Josh Allen, who features many of the dynamic dual-threat attributes of a young Newton. Matt Barkley is a free agent and Newton would be make sense to back Allen if needed. Buffalo is Carolina Northeast, anyway, with Sean McDermott and Brandon Beane.

Titans: Quick, guess the quarterbacks on Tennessee’s roster not named Ryan Tannehill. If you said Logan Woodside and DeShone Kizer, you know the Titans could use an upgrade there. Here, Newton can return to the Southeast and be part of a winning team with strong running game and downfield passing game.

Cardinals: Yes, Chris Streveler did play a significant role in Week 17 for Arizona when playoffs where on the line. The Cardinals also have Brett Hundley and Cole McDonald behind Kyler Murray. They should at least consider an upgrade to Newton given his athleticism is built to play off a run-heavy offense.

Vikings: Now we’re in wild-card territory but this is also a run-heavy offense that can get Newton back into a comfort zone. There will need to be another new man behind Kirk Cousins on the Minnesota Vikings with Sean Mannion unsigned for 2021, with Jake Browning and Nate Stanley rounding out the current depth chart.

Giants: A Newton reunion with Dave Gettleman? It makes some good sense with Colt McCoy headed into free agency behind Daniel Jones. Jason Garrett should go back to centering his run-first offense around an elite feature back with Saquon Barkley healthy, which will help Jones and whoever’s behind him get him more settled. The Giants also are bound to upgrade their receiving talent, too.

Teams that should think about signing Cam Newton as a starter

Bears: The Bears cannot roll with Nick Foles again and Mitchell Trubisky is a free agent. They missed out on Carson Wentz and won’t be getting Deshaun Watson. Their bad cap situation doesn’t give them a lot of money to get more than a veteran bridge should they eschew drafting another first-round QB. Chicago officials can’t be arrogant to think that Newton can’t be answer, and the offensive coaching combination of Matt Nagy and John DeFilippo can help him get back on track.

Broncos: The Broncos look less attached to a third starting season with second-rounder Drew Lock by the day. They should be interested in drafting a QB in the first round but if they go back to a veteran bridge or contingency route, Newton is worth consideration. New GM George Paton comes from the Vikings, where he helped them make many practical additions, which Newton would be as a low-risk, medium-reward option.

Washington Football Team: Last alphabetically but not least, It had to be WFT to put Newton on the radar at QB. Ron Rivera and Scott Turner are the obvious Panthers connections, and heck, the team already has Kyle Allen and Taylor Heinicke. It comes down to whether Newton, at much a cheaper price, can be a veteran upgrade with more upside than Alex Smith. Smith carries a $24.4 million cap hit in 2021, and Washington can recoup $13.6 million of that by releasing him. Reuniting with Rivera would without question be Newton’s best chance to find above-average NFL success again.