One of the bigger names still available in free agency is former Panthers quarterback Cam Newton. His market up until this point has been suspiciously quiet, possibly due to his wanting a shot at a starting gig, though recent reports suggest otherwise. A few teams have been linked to the 2015 NFL MVP but no contract offers have materialized. I decided to do a quick series of articles imagining a scenario where Newton ended up with each NFL team. Many of these are unlikely scenarios relying on injuries or unknown situations, but it was a fun exercise. Will any of these situations play out and will Cam find a home prior to the start of NFL activities? Only time will tell. Today we examine the NFC North division teams.
Perennially underrated franchise quarterback Matt Stafford enters his 12th season with the Lions coming off a 2019 in which he missed eight games due to injury. The easy scenario here would be to say he is a health risk, but prior to last year Stafford hadn’t missed a game to injury since 2010. His impressive eight-year iron man streak, while playing on a team that more often than not was not a playoff contender, showed he is willing to play through pain and minor ailments. Detroit general manager Bob Quinn has also indicated Stafford is healthy and ready to resume training.Signed through the 2022 season, the Lions actually have a potential ‘out’ clause in which they can cut him prior to 2021 and only leave behind 19 million in dead cap space. With this in mind, would it be possible that a contending team, or possibly one that is unhappy with their current quarterback situation would be interested in trading for Stafford? His name has popped up in the rumor mill recently, and would anyone really blame him for wanting a fresh start on another franchise? The obvious team that comes to mind is the New England Patriots, but what about a move to Las Vegas to join Jon Gruden and the Raiders? Whatever the situation, this would leave the Lions woefully short-staffed at the position. Career journeyman Chase Daniel is currently penciled in as the backup, while last season’s emergency starter David Blough remains with the team as the number three despite doing nothing to show he was a capable NFL starter over his five appearances in 2019.
Enter Cam Newton as a stopgap starter for a season or two while the Lions assess their long-term goals at the position. Newton would have a couple of decent weapons in wide receivers Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones to work with, as well as sophomore tight end T.J. Hockensen and running backs Kerryon Johnson and D’Andre Swift. The personnel is certainly in place for Newton to have a promising fantasy season.
Following another disappointing season in Chicago, the Bears decided to decline the fifth year option on quarterback Mitch Trubisky. They then brought in competition for the former first round pick by trading for former Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles. Foles is coming off a truly disappointing season of his own in Jacksonville in which he broke his collar bone in his very first game and subsequently lost his starting gig to Gardner Minshew. Now reunited with familiar coaches in John DeFillipo and Matt Nagy, Foles will have an opportunity to win the job from the underwhelming Trubisky. Perhaps the addition of real competition will motivate Trubisky into showing some of the promise that made him the second overall selection in 2017 and he will keep his hold on the top job. Foles meanwhile will be lurking in the shadows, putting pressure on Trubisky to keep up his improved play. With a dominant defense, the Bears really only need competent game management to win ball games, so perhaps this is a scenario that works well for them. It would be hard to envision a fit for Cam Newton in Chicago barring an injury to one of the two potential starters. Newton in a Bears uniform would really require an early-season catastrophe like the one Foles suffered just last season, his second clavicle fracture on the same shoulder in the past five seasons. In this scenario, the Bears may be tempted to keep the pressure on Trubisky by inking Newton to the backup job.
One of the more divisive quarterbacks in recent memory, Kirk Cousins has shown an ability to win games against weaker opponents, struggle against stronger ones, win road playoff games, and fumble away sure victories against divisional opponents. Now extended for an additional two seasons just prior to free agency giving the cap-strapped Vikings some salary relief while also locking him up through the 2022 season. Cousins has proven to be resilient and his low-risk play style makes him a low injury risk to miss games. In fact, Cousins has yet to miss a start to injury since taking over as Washington’s starter in 2014. The Vikings did chose to rest him in Week 17 last season and handed the reigns over to unproven backup Sean Mannion. Mannion promptly fell flat, completing just 12 of 21 passes for 126 scoreless yards and a pair of interceptions in a 21-19 loss to the Bears. Entering this season, Mannion is still penciled in as the backup, though certain media outlets are suggesting an upgrade at the position in the form of Colin Kaepernick. Perhaps another team beats the Vikings to the punch and snag Kaepernick away? There is another mobile quarterback available on the free agent market who would certainly be an upgrade on Mannion, and one who could potentially push Cousins should he struggle at all. With Cam Newton already admitting publicly that he is willing to sign on to be a backup, the Vikings should do their due diligence and at least entertain the possibility, as they are absolutely in ‘win now’ mode with their roster construction and salary cap situation.
Green Bay Packers