Cam Newton is on the hunt for a new job in the NFL after being released by the Carolina Panthers on Tuesday.
His exit from the Panthers is a turn of events assumed unthinkable only a few years ago. Newton won the MVP award in the 2015 season for a scintillating campaign that ended with the Panthers losing Super Bowl 50 to the Denver Broncos.
A series of injury issues have derailed the former first-round pick's career and, as he surveys his available options, Newton will find only one legitimate potential opportunity to start in 2020.
Newton taking snaps under center in Week 1 is dependent on interest from a team that also parted with their long-time starter this offseason.
Cam Newton – Los Angeles Charger?
The Los Angeles Chargers stand as the only team with a prospective opening for Newton to start.
Philip Rivers, with the Chargers since 2004, is now a member of the Indianapolis Colts. Los Angeles have not made a move to replace him, leaving Tyrod Taylor as the presumptive starting quarterback.
That is an unappetising scenario for Chargers fans considering buying the personal seat licenses at SoFi Stadium, which they will share with the Rams.
Aside from a few seasons of promise with the Buffalo Bills, Taylor has displayed little to suggest he is a starting quarterback capable of leading a playoff contender. He is, however, an ideal backup for Newton.
Taylor and Newton possess a similar skill set with their ability to make things happen with their legs. Newton boasts significantly great upside as a passer and when at his best he has the arm to make any throw.
Newton would also find an excellent set of weapons to get the ball to. Keenan Allen has at least 1,100 receiving yards in each of the last three seasons while Mike Williams provides a big-bodied target with the catch radius to negate the impact of inaccurate passes.
Hunter Henry is a prolific if oft-injured option at tight end and Austin Ekeler established himself as one of the better all-round running backs in the NFL last year.
The fit with the Chargers could hardly be better for Newton, who would instantly energise an uninspired fanbase. However, with the Chargers in a position to add one of the top quarterbacks in the draft with the sixth overall pick, they may not have interest. If they don't, then Newton will have to reconcile himself with being a backup.
Other potential destinations
Teams where Newton would appear to have a shot at replacing the current starter are thin on the ground.
His best bets are with franchises that have 2019 draft picks who were not selected in the first round under center – the Broncos and Jacksonville Jaguars.
Second-rounder Drew Lock impressed down the stretch for the Broncos, but Denver will not have seen enough to be totally convinced by a gunslinger with a tendency for rash decisions.
Newton is an upgrade on Lock when healthy and the same is true with Jaguars starter Gardner Minshew.
Minshew outplayed Nick Foles last year as a sixth-round rookie and his exciting style of play made him a cult hero in Jacksonville. Consistency will be key, however, if the Jaguars are to excel. Newton would be a tremendous replacement were Minshew to fail to regularly produce his best.
The Jags' AFC South rivals the Tennessee Titans are a possible outsider for Newton. They need a backup for Ryan Tannehill following Marcus Mariota's departure. Newton is an excellent insurance policy if Tannehill's 2019 resurgence proves a flash in the pan.
Proving his fitness
Any team considering taking a chance on Newton will be very interested in a physical examination given his recent injury history.
He battled a shoulder injury in 2018 and suffered a Lisfranc fracture last year, the latter issue limiting him to just two games.
Newton's durability concerns may be a substantial worry for the Chargers, whose problems at offensive line led to much of Rivers' struggles in his final years with the team, though they have addressed the trenches by trading for guard Trai Turner and signing tackle Bryan Bulaga.
If Newton is to find a new home, he will need to prove he is healthy. Given the recent NFL order for teams to shut down their facilities due to the coronavirus pandemic, the opportunity to do so in a physical may not come for some time.
Newton is set to move on to the next stage of his NFL career but he may have to play the waiting game to find out where that will take place.