Cam Newton signed with the Patriots this offseason when there was little excitement for him across the league as a free agent.
Next year, that could look very different.
In three starts for New England before a positive Covid test cost him two games, Newton was completing 68 percent of his passes with two touchdowns, two interceptions and another four touchdowns on the ground. He stabilized the Patriots QB position after losing Tom Brady in free agency, and Newton is a major reason that New England again looks like a playoff contender.
And he's only playing on a one-year contract.
New England will have competition for Newton next offseason, and plenty of NFL people believe Washington could be in the hunt for Newton.
Albert Breer of the MMQB and NBC Sports Boston said that when Washington head coach Ron Rivera benched Dwayne Haskins after Week 4 that the move "reverberates in Foxborough," home of the Patriots team facility.
"That means Washington has no long-term answer at the [quarterback] position and a head coach in Ron Rivera and an offensive coordinator in Scott Turner who are very close with Cam," Breer said.
Rivera took over as head coach of the Carolina Panthers in 2011, and his first-ever draft pick was Newton. That duo worked together for nine seasons, making the playoffs four times and getting all the way to the Super Bowl in 2015.
In New England, Breer believes, Washington looks like a viable threat to sign Newton as a free agent in 2021.
"I think the presence now of Washington being out there, and they won't have a long-term answer before the start of free agency because of course the draft won't have happened by then, I think that almost puts the Patriots in a corner where it's like, okay, if you don't get Cam signed to a long-term deal before you get to the beginning of March you almost have to tag him."
The logic makes sense.
Even though Rivera has said Haskins still has a role with Washington and the team is invested in his long-term development, that's hard to believe. Kyle Allen is the starter now, but he's only under contract this year. Alex Smith is under contract for two more seasons, but the team can get out of his contract in 2021.
It's easy then to see a path where Rivera wants to upgrade at QB, and if Newton is available, it's easy to see a path where Washington pursues him.
That could change depending how the remaining 10 games of the year fare for Washington. If the team bottoms out and lands a top draft pick, maybe Rivera will want to draft his own QB of the future. If Washington wins a few games, free agency might be the better route to land a new QB.
Of course, it's also possible that Allen or Smith, or even Haskins, come back to prove they should be the QB of the future. Seems unlikely, but possible.
Regardless of what happens, New England considers Washington a threat when it comes to pursuing Cam Newton. At least Washington is competing with New England in some capacity.