The Washington Football Team reportedly plans to release veteran Alex Smith in a move that would open up the quarterback position for head coach Ron Rivera and his new front office personnel to fill.
When Rivera joined Washington during the 2020 offseason, he inherited a quarterback room that included Dwayne Haskins fresh off his rookie season and Smith on the mend from his life-threatening leg injury. Now, Haskins is in Pittsburgh and Smith is on his way out, leaving Washington with only Taylor Heinicke under contract after he re-signed on a two-year deal in February.
If Washington opts to dip into the free agent market to find its solution at quarterback, one option that stands out is Rivera’s former quarterback with the Carolina Panthers in Cam Newton.
The 2015 NFL MVP played 15 games for the New England Patriots last season, completing 65.8 percent of his passes for 2,657 yards with eight passing touchdowns and 10 interceptions. He also rushed for 592 yards and 12 scores with six fumbles. It was a bounce-back year for Newton in that he stayed healthy after appearing in only two games in 2019.
NFL Network analyst Peter Schrager said Tuesday on “Good Morning Football” that Washington fans shouldn’t be quick to pass on the idea of Newton reuniting with Rivera.
“I look at Cam Newton,” Schrager said. “[He] showed that he can still play football when healthy and he goes back to a place potentially with Ron Rivera, with Scott Turner, with all those guys that he was with in Carolina. I know a lot of Washington fans when I put this out there last week were rolling their eyes and saying, ‘We’re done with Cam. Let’s get someone [else].’ Heinicke is there, and Heinicke and Cam were together in Carolina. Heinicke, they re-signed, they got him a nice two-year deal and he is on the roster. But I think Cam Newton still might have some more football to play.”
While Newton’s passing stats were down in 2020, the Patriots leaned much more on their running game rather than their QB’s arm. Newton averaged 31.8 pass attempts per game in Carolina but just 24.5 under Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels. His 7.2 yards per attempt last season were still right around his career average while he still showed the ability to make plays with his legs by scoring more rushing touchdowns than he had in any season since he was a rookie.
Of course, Newton does carry significant injury risk and will be 32 years old next season. But Schrager argues that Washington’s defense is already good enough for the team to compete. Newton could be a key piece that gives the team a shot at defending its NFC East title.
“Instead of having to learn an entirely new playbook from Josh McDaniels, maybe he walks into Scott Turner’s office and knows the entire playbook inside and out and Ron and Cam can work together in Washington,” Schrager said. “That’s what I think coming into free agency makes sense for both sides. Washington, I don’t think they’re that far away and as long as Cam can play quarterback and doesn’t turn the ball over, I think Washington is gonna be in every game.”