Former MVP Floated as Temp Replacement for Browns QB Watson

Deshaun Watson, Cleveland Browns

Getty Deshaun Watson of the Cleveland Browns.

The Cleveland Browns have already added three quarterbacks and traded one away this offseason, but the team may be one move short of finished at the position.

The links between the Browns and the Carolina Panthers have come frequently and fervently over the last several weeks, as rumors persisted and details emerged all the way up to a deal that ultimately sent Baker Mayfield to Charlotte on July 6. Now, as the Browns’ No. 1 quarterback, Deshaun Watson waits for a ruling to come down on a possible suspension, Cleveland has again been linked to Carolina — only this time as a possible destination for a former Panthers quarterback as insurance against a protracted penalty for Watson.

Former league MVP and Super Bowl starter Cam Newton, 33, is unquestionably past his prime, but he represents an interesting option as a backup for Jacoby Brissett if Watson is forced to sit out several games. First, Newton is a free agent, which means the Browns wouldn’t have to surrender any assets to bring him in. Second, he’s looking for a home and another opportunity in the NFL, which should translate into an affordable and team-friendly contract for Cleveland.

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Newton Worth Flier if Watson Suspended for Short Stint of Season

cam newton

GettyCam Newton as a member of the New England Patriots.

Newton could prove a realistic option for the Browns if Watson ends up sidelined for the entire 2022 season, which the NFL has pushed for leading up to the ruling from independent arbiter and former federal judge Sue L. Robinson.

Mary Kay Cabot of laid out the circumstances on Friday, July 15.

There’s growing sentiment within league circles that Watson will play at some point this season despite the NFL arguing for an indefinite suspension of at least the full season with a chance to apply for reinstatement afterwards. The NFL Players Association has fought for no suspension at all based in part on the fact that several NFL owners haven’t been suspended for their direct or indirect involvement in sexual misconduct.

It marks the first case under the revised Collective Bargaining Agreement in which a jointly appointed disciplinary officer decides the initial discipline instead of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.

Both sides — the NFL and NFLPA — will have a chance to appeal, and it will be heard by Goodell or a designee, who can amend it as they see fit and who’s word will be final. If Robinson doesn’t impose a punishment, Goodell can’t change it.

If Watson ends up out for the entire season, or something close to it, a bona fide starter like Jimmy Garoppolo of the San Francisco 49ers may be a smarter investment, even as he represents a salary cap hit north of $25.5 million that would consume more than half of the Browns’ league-leading $48-plus million in available space.

A considerably lighter investment in Newton may suffice if the team’s intent is simply to use him as a safety blanket behind Brissett for half of a season or less.

Browns Will Sign 4th QB Should Watson Face Serious Suspension

Colts NFL Playoff Chances

GettyQuarterback Jacoby Brissett is expected to start in place of Deshaun Watson.

Also on Friday, Cabot reported that Cleveland will pick up a fourth signal caller if Watson faces a long-term suspension.

“With training camp beginning July 27, the Browns are hoping for a decision sooner than later so they can plan accordingly,” Cabot wrote. “If Watson is out for a lengthy period of time, they will sign a quarterback to back up interim starter Jacoby Brissett.”

Newton has spent the entirety of his career with the Panthers, save for a one-year stint with the New England Patriots in 2020, when he went 7-8 as the starter. He reunited with the Panthers last season, appearing in eight games and starting five of those in place of Sam Darnold, all of which were losses.

Newton is 7-15 as a starter in the previous three seasons, though he was one of the NFL’s most versatile quarterbacks for eight years prior to that. He earned trips to three Pro Bowls and was selected as a member of the All-Pro team in 2015, the same year he won MVP and started the Super Bowl, ultimately losing to Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos.

Over the course of his 11-year professional career, Newton has thrown for 32,382 yards and 194 touchdowns compared to 123 interceptions. He’s also rushed for 5,628 yards and 75 touchdowns, per Pro Football Reference.

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