Cam Newton had little interest in free agency this past spring once released by Carolina. The former MVP sat nearly four months without a job before the New England Patriots signed him on a team-friendly contract in late June.
Six weeks into the season, Newton looks rejuvenated in Foxborough and like a franchise quarterback once again. Yet, since he's on a one-year deal, his future in New England is not guaranteed past this season.
On Sunday, MMQB and NBC Sports Boston analyst Albert Breer reported that the Patriots could see Washington as a threat to sign Newton this offseason.
Two days later, Breer clarified his original report on the Grant and Danny Show, saying that New England doesn't necessarily see Washington as a threat, but a team that could be a natural suitor to sign Newton due to the Burgundy and Gold's uncertainty at the position and past connections to the QB.
"Well, now that Dwayne Haskins has been benched in Washington, the future down there is wide open at the position," Breer said. "Because of the natural connection between Ron Rivera, Scott Turner, and Cam Newton, the Patriots would now have something to worry about if they didn't tag him."
The biggest question for the Patriots right now is what to do with Newton contractually after this season. Last summer, they signed him on a cheap deal, since no other team expressed interest in the former MVP.
But now that he's proven he's still a quality, above-average QB in the NFL, multiple teams -- like Washington -- figure to be interested in him come free agency.
"The point I was making was it has sort of backed the Patriots into a corner where they have to tag Cam Newton now because Washington is out there as a potential suitor," Breer said.
Simply put, the Patriots will have to pay the price to keep Newton as their signal-caller past this season.
When the Patriots first signed Newton, it was New England's latest attempt at bringing in a "distressed asset," Breer said. The team has a history of doing so under head coach Bill Belichick. Names like Randy Moss and Corey Dillon resonate as moves that paid off for New England, while others like Albert Haynesworth and Chad Johnson did not.
Thus far, the move for Newton has worked out.
"If they were all in on Cam, they would have gotten him in March," Breer said. "They really like him now and believe he can be their starter for multiple years."
The Patriots typically don't like to tag players, Breer pointed out, but are currently doing so with offensive lineman Joe Thuney, who's played at a Pro Bowl level for them. But, if Newton and New England are unable to reach a long-term deal, Breer says it's likely they'll tag the quarterback before letting him explore free agency.
One final point the analyst made about Newton is that if the Patriots do re-sign the quarterback, the 31-year-old gives them flexibility at the position for years to come. Breer compared this situation to when the Kansas City Chiefs traded for Alex Smith back in 2013.
"They are perfectly happy with the guy as their starter, but the other thing the guy does for you is gives you flexibility so you don't have to get a young guy, but when there is a guy you really like, you can move on him and strike," Breer said.
The Chiefs did this with Smith, as he was their starter for five seasons and led them to the playoffs in four of them. But, when Kansas City saw the opportunity to trade up for Patrick Mahomes in the draft, they did. After sitting behind Smith for one year, Mahomes succeeded the veteran and is now the best quarterback in football.
While it's uncertain what Newton's long-term future in New England will be like contractually, Breer finds it hard to imagine a scenario where he's not with the Patriots next season. Washington's potential interest in Newton might just force New England to pay more for him.