Lombardi: Reasons for Teams Not Signing Cam Newton ‘Lack Common Sense’

Jesse Pantuosco
May 08, 2020 - 3:09 pm

Former Browns GM Michael Lombardi is just as mystified as the rest of us that Cam Newton remains jobless. The soon-to-be 31-year-old hasn’t heard a peep in free agency, a snub Lombardi attributes to Newton’s recent injuries as well as the coronavirus, which has prevented teams from getting a good look at the former MVP. Lombardi has picked up on a theme, noticing teams would “rather be wrong with their guy than right with someone new.”

Writing for The Athletic, Lombardi laid out four potential fits—the Bears, Redskins, Patriots and Jaguars—though none have come calling to this point. In Lombardi’s estimation, the Bears chose Nick Foles—who is due a whopping $17 million in guaranteed money this year—over Newton because Foles is seen as a “less threatening quarterback challenger” to incumbent Mitchell Trubisky. Chicago wanted to bring in competition for Trubisky, who struggled mightily in 2019, but “only in a kind, polite way.” Essentially, the Bears thought Newton’s presence would damage what little is left of Trubisky’s confidence.

Newton obviously has ties to Redskins coach Ron Rivera, who oversaw the vast majority of his Carolina tenure, but in Washington he’d be entering a similarly fragile ecosystem with young quarterback Dwayne Haskins still finding his NFL footing. That’s likely why the Redskins brought in another former Panther, Kyle Allen, to fill out their quarterback room. “Newton would dominate the locker room,” wrote Lombardi. “He would instantly command the respect of the other players, thus keeping Haskins uncomfortable.”

While Newton wouldn’t be the best schematic fit in Jacksonville—the former Heisman winner has little experience playing in a West Coast offense. But he would still be an enormous upgrade on current starter Gardner Minshew. Lombardi surmises that Jacksonville’s lack of interest in Cam (the Jaguars recently added journeyman Mike Glennon as QB depth) stems from a desire to tank for Clemson star Trevor Lawrence, the presumptive No. 1 pick in next year’s draft. “As the Glennon signing shows, they’re fine with the status quo and they don’t actually intend to be very competitive,” said Lombardi, who finds the Jags’ tanking efforts “extremely obvious.”

Unlike the Bears, Redskins or Jaguars, the Patriots have a somewhat valid excuse for not pursuing Cam. With money still owed to Antonio Brown, Tom Brady and Stephen Gostkowski—none of whom are still on the team—the Patriots find themselves in what Lombardi described as “salary cap jail,” leaving New England with little financial room to maneuver. The only way the Patriots could afford Cam (at least this season) would be to restructure Joe Thuney’s contract, which Lombardi doesn’t see as a likely outcome.

With few quarterback openings available and teams like the Redskins and Bears afraid to upset the apple cart by bringing in a big-name starter, Newton seems more like a victim of bad timing than anything. “Being a free agent potential starting quarterback is like playing musical chairs,” wrote Lombardi. “And right now, the music has stopped for Cam with no chair available.”

Cam finds himself in quarterback purgatory for the moment, but Lombardi promises it won’t be a life sentence. “Many projected starting quarterbacks in April or May will flame out in August or September and then Cam will be in demand,” noted Lombardi. “The best thing he can do right now is stay healthy, stay in shape and not worry. It will happen.”

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