49ers should sign free-agent quarterback Cam Newton

FOXBOROUGH, MA - AUGUST 22: Cam Newton #1 of the Carolina Panthers warms up prior to the start of the preseason game against the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium on August 22, 2019 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Kathryn Riley/Getty Images)
FOXBOROUGH, MA - AUGUST 22: Cam Newton #1 of the Carolina Panthers warms up prior to the start of the preseason game against the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium on August 22, 2019 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Kathryn Riley/Getty Images) /

Last week, the Carolina Panthers released quarterback Cam Newton. While the San Francisco 49ers should feel comfortable and confident with Jimmy Garoppolo at quarterback, they should sign Newton because of his high upside.

The Carolina Panthers released their longtime quarterback, Cam Newton, last week, signing Teddy Bridgewater, former backup for the New Orleans Saints, to take charge of their new offense.

While it might seem like a counter-intuitive move, the San Francisco 49ers should sign Newton, especially if he comes at a low price.

First off, I love current 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. I think he is far better than many of his detractors make him out to be. He led the 49ers to a Super Bowl in his first full season as a starting quarterback. While he missed a couple of key throws in the big game, he performed well throughout most of it.

A few weeks ago, many were arguing the Niners should sign now-Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback, and former New England Patriots legend, Tom Brady. I was not a supporter of this signing for the Niners, and I wrote about why here. Essentially my argument was Garoppolo is a very good quarterback, with nowhere to go but up, while Brady was on the decline.

However, while that argument makes sense for the 49ers not signing Brady, it does not hold water for Newton.

Newton has far more upside than both Brady and Garoppolo. Newton is one of the best quarterbacks the NFL has seen in recent years. In 2015, he led the Panthers to a 15-1 regular-season record, winning NFL MVP in the process. It was one of the best seasons from a quarterback the league has ever seen. Newton threw for 3,837 yards and 35 touchdowns while rushing for 636 yards and 10 touchdowns.

Garoppolo is a good, solid, NFL-starting quarterback, who in the right system, has the potential to be great. Newton, however, is an elite NFL quarterback who can drag teams to victory on the back of his play and do things that few athletes in the history of the NFL have ever been able to do.

As 49ers fans saw in the Super Bowl against Patrick Mahomes of the Kansas City Chiefs, having a quarterback who can drag a team to victory is pretty helpful.

Now, as I said earlier, I love Garoppolo. He is a good quarterback who plays great in head coach Kyle Shanahan’s system, and is loved by his teammates. Garoppolo can lead the 49ers to a Super Bowl victory.

But, he will never be able to play at the same level as a healthy Newton.

Now that’s really the big question: is Newton healthy? Many people will argue Newton has never been the same since his MVP season, and has struggled with injuries ever since. But, Newton had a great start to the 2018 season, before struggling with injuries down the stretch. Then he missed nearly all of last season because of a foot injury.

So, is Newton healthy? Well, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, Newton was fully cleared from his injuries during a physical last week. However, due to issues caused by COVID-19, it will likely be impossible for teams to conduct their own evaluations of Newton’s health. This actually creates a huge opportunity for the 49ers.

Teams will be hesitant to sign Newton if they cannot be fully assured of his health, especially with many other starting-caliber quarterbacks likely to be on the move this offseason. Teams that are in need of a starting quarterback would probably rather sign a player they know for certain is healthy.

That’s where the Niners come in.

The 49ers don’t need a starting quarterback. As I said earlier, they should be fully comfortable and confident starting Garoppolo in 2020. Because of that, if other teams are not interested in Newton due to concerns about his health, they could sign him at a low price. And if he is healthy, let him compete for the starting job. If he is not healthy, then the Niners likely won’t have lost much, especially if contract wizard Paraag Marathe is a part of the deal.

But if Newton is healthy, the 49ers will have a steal. Newton is still relatively young at 30 years old and is upset with the Panthers over how they parted ways. A healthy, angry Newton could take the league by storm this season. Put him into a stacked 49ers offense led by Shanahan, and I pity the rest of the NFL.

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Signing Newton would be a high-upside, low-downside move. The Niners had three quarterbacks on the roster last season and could do the same this year, holding on to promising backup Nick Mullens and finally moving on from C.J. Beathard. If other teams are not interested because of his health, the Niners should bring in Newton simply to see if he is healthy, and if not, stick to Garoppolo.

Last season, the Niners were a great team, bringing in a healthy Newton could give them the final boost they need to bring home the Lombardi trophy again.