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Where will Cam Newton play in 2021? Patriots, Washington, 49ers all free agency possibilities

It’s probably not right to call Cam Newton’s 2020 a rebirth or renaissance, but it’s at least been a rekindling for the Patriots’ quarterback.

In the 2020 free agent market, Newton was an uncertain commodity coming off two bad starts and a season-ending injury for the Panthers in 2019. New England brought the former Auburn star in to start after Tom Brady left, and it’s been a mixed bag. But Newton has shown that he still has NFL quarterback skills, and that should allow him to find a starting job in 2021 free agency after his one-year contract is up.

Newton won’t be the only quarterback on the market. He’ll be joined by Mitchell Trubisky, Andy Dalton, Jacoby Brissett, Philip Rivers, Tyrod Taylor, Jameis Winston and Nick Mullens (and Dak Prescott if the Cowboys make the unlikely choice to let him walk). But Newton has one of the higher likelihoods to come out of that group with a starting job.

With the 2020 season winding down, this is a look at where Newton might wind up in 2021. As often with analysis such as this, we very well might be wrong, but the six teams below all have reasons they could wind up with Newton.

Note: Some teams are highly likely to find their next quarterback in the 2021 NFL Draft and haven’t been included in this list, although they could always sign Newton as a stopgap option before a rookie takes over. That list includes the New York Jets and Jacksonville Jaguars.

MORE: What is the Patriots’ future at quarterback?

Where will Cam Newton play in 2021?

New England Patriots

It’s not clear what the Patriots’ future quarterback plans are. Jarrett Stidham will still be under contract, but in limited action he’s looked more like a career backup than an answer as a starter. Newton hasn’t been terrible, but he remains a limited passer who needs a rush-heavy offense specifically tailored to his abilities.

New England’s likelihood of bringing Newton back could depend on its final draft position (or on if Newton leads a late postseason surge in 2020). The Patriots could decide they’re comfortable enough with Newton as a stopgap in 2021 while they groom a newly selected quarterback or wait to take one in 2022. But it’s getting about that time for Bill Belichick to take a first-round quarterback.

Washington Football Team

If Washington does indeed decide Dwayne Haskins isn’t its future quarterback, there’ll be questions about who is. Alex Smith is a great story, but he’s nearing retirement age. Kyle Allen is a favorite of Ron Rivera’s, but he hasn’t been good very often in his NFL career. The draft is the likely place Washington will acquire what it hopes to be its future franchise QB, but there could be an opening for a 2021 starter.

Newton and Rivera did plenty of great things in Carolina together, and Rivera said in June “don’t bet against Cam.” It’s not impossible to imagine a reunion for one year with Rivera calling fourth-down quarterback runs for Newton once again. 

(Getty Images)

Denver Broncos

Entering Week 14 in 2020, Drew Lock has been intercepted in each of his last seven games. He’s only a second-year player, but his rough stretch has made the former Missouri standout look less like the long-term answer.

If John Elway doesn’t see a quarterback he loves in the 2021 draft (with Denver likely picking out of range for at least Trevor Lawrence and Justin Fields), he could bring in veteran competition for 2021. It’s not an exact parallel to when Elway brought in Peyton Manning, but it’d make sense if there was some interest on both sides for Newton to team up with Elway. The veteran would have to accept a QB competition with Lock, probably, rather than an outright starter job.

San Francisco 49ers

Sporting News’ Vinnie Iyer has already examined whether Jimmy Garoppolo’s time in San Francisco is up. With C.J. Beathard and Nick Mullens also on expiring contracts, the 49ers may wind up totally redoing their quarterback room for 2021.

It’s likely Newton wouldn’t wind up in San Francisco as the sure-thing starter, but depending on the status of Garoppolo, Newton could have a chance in the Bay Area. San Francisco won’t draft high enough to get a plug-and-play quarterback in the draft, so it seems a probable landing spot for one of the veteran free agents.

Indianapolis Colts

The Colts brought in Philip Rivers on a one-year contract, and Jacoby Brissett’s expensive backup deal is expiring, too. With Indy chasing a playoff berth, any quarterback they get in April will likely need at least a bit of time to sit and learn. That makes the Colts a candidate to either re-sign Rivers or seek out another veteran. 

Eventually, it feels like Indianapolis needs to find a long-term replacement for Andrew Luck. But in the short term, Newton will be available. 

Chicago Bears

With Trubisky set to hit the free-agent market, the Bears are a candidate to draft a quarterback in the early-to-middle first round come April. But like a few of the other teams on the list, it won’t be one of the top-tier sure-things coming to Chicago.

The Bears will have to decide whether they’re willing to wait out youth development while relying on Nick Foles, who they traded for prior to the 2020 season, or if they think they can win with a different veteran. Newton won with a strong defense in Carolina, and while he’s declined, maybe he could win with a strong defense in Chicago.

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