The Jets and Cam Newton don’t make sense together
Often seen as one of the most macabre days in the sport’s crowded calendar, the NFL’s mandated late summer cut down to a 53-man roster often ends the professional football dreams of countless participants.
While many tend to be young players unable to carry over their talents over to the big stage, some cuts tend to illustrious names of days gone by, seeing their eager attempts to extend their careers go by the wayside.
The New England Patriots produced one such release in Tuesday’s edition of cuts, as the team has reportedly released quarterback 2015 NFL MVP Cam Newton. His time as the Patriots’ franchise quarterback, succeeding Tom Brady, ends after only one season, as management has turned the reigns over to first-round rookie Mac Jones.
It’s increasingly unlikely that Newton, 32, will ever regain his MVP form, especially after he’s dealt with injuries over the past few seasons. But depth-seeking teams appear ready to inquire about his services, as Newton can serve as a capable backup. Some have pegged the Dallas Cowboys (who cautiously welcome back the multi-talented Dak Prescott back from a devastating ankle injury) as an ideal landing spot.
Discussion, of course, has swerved toward the New York Jets.
The release of Newton sets the stage for an epic showdown between Jones and Zach Wilson, fellow first-round picks last spring, at the Jets’ home opener on Sept. 19. Plans behind Wilson, however, have been the subject of controversy both domestically and abroad.
The Jets appear poised to go into the 2021 season with zero NFL regular-season passes on their quarterbacks’ professional ledgers. There are obviously big plans for Wilson, April’s second-round pick; but if disaster strikes, the Jets’ current contingency options are Mike White and James Morgan, each of whom had inconsistent showings over the trio of preseason games. New York briefly brought in the well-traveled Josh Johnson as a camp arm, but he was part of the Jets’ own Tuesday transactions.
Should the Jets look into a Cam collaboration? Tempting as it sounds, it’d be best for them to sit this one out.
Newton’s resume is impressive enough to serve as a veteran mentor. In his prime, he rewrote the NFL’s record book, particularly the chapters on rushing quarterbacks, and made several deep playoff runs, capped off by the Carolina Panthers’ 15-win season that ended in Super Bowl 50.
Newton also appears to have enough on-field fight in him to fill in serviceably in case of an emergency: He had a passer rating of at least 100 in four games last season (the Jets had one and it came from departed backup Joe Flacco) and had a strong preseason showing against Philadelphia earlier this month (8 of 9, 103 yards, and a touchdown in a 35-0 Patriots win).
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But Newton is talented enough and is a well-enough known commodity where Wilson’s job isn’t safe, no matter how much the Jets insist. The last thing Wilson needs is for fans to announce their return to MetLife Stadium by calling for Newton every time one of his passes falls short. As unlikely as that possibility is from an overwhelming standpoint, the smatterings will always be there.
As the Jets start to write the latest chapter of their perpetual rebuild, the last thing they need is any form of controversy, especially in a football environment that continues to treat their simplest mistakes as punchlines. Newton is all too familiar with that concept.
Even as his career spotlight has dimmed, he remains one of the league’s most scrutinized players, sometimes through no fault of his own.
If the Jets were on the cusp of winning now and needed a talented name to rise up in case of an emergency, Newton would be the perfect way to go, even if the current offensive gameplan appears to de-emphasize the mobile part of the game that introduced him to the national scene. But the Jets need the developmental years of Wilson—heck, their entire young offense—to be run as cleanly as possible.
Newton is far better off, from both a personal and New York standpoint, continuing his NFL journey as a reliable backup with a team that’s clearly in win-now mode and one that can acquiesce to his mobile abilities (i.e. Dallas, Arizona, Seattle).
Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags