Baltimore Ravens NFL Free Agency Targets: Cam Newton

FOXBOROUGH, MA - JANUARY 03: Cam Newton #1 of the New England Patriots throws the ball during a game against the New York Jets at Gillette Stadium on January 3, 2021 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)
FOXBOROUGH, MA - JANUARY 03: Cam Newton #1 of the New England Patriots throws the ball during a game against the New York Jets at Gillette Stadium on January 3, 2021 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images) /

The Baltimore Ravens need a reliable veteran to back up Lamar Jackson, and Cam Newton profiles as the perfect fit.

While Ravens Twitter may disagree, there is no question that the Baltimore Ravens have their long-term answer under center at Lamar Jackson. But with Robert Griffin III set to hit free agency, Tyler Huntley and Trace McSorley are currently set to battle it out in training camp for the chance to be Jackson’s primary backup in 2021.

Each saw limited action in 2020, with Huntley showing more promise of the two in the second half of the Ravens’ Divisional Round loss to the Buffalo Bills. The Utah product seems to have the inside track on the job at the moment, but should Baltimore really feel comfortable handing either the reigns if Jackson has to miss time next season?

The way that young weapons like Devin Duvernay, Miles Boykin, and James Proche have been underutilized early in their careers shows how hesitant the Ravens are to throw rookies into the fire on the offensive side of the ball.

Even Lamar Jackson didn’t see the field right away in his rookie season, and J.K. Dobbins didn’t see 10 carries in a game until Week 7 last year. If that’s the case, one would have to imagine the coaching staff would be that much more hesitant with a young quarterback under center than they’ve already been with other inexperienced pieces of the offense.

But a Ravens team in the thick of a Super Bowl window can’t afford to have a quarterback that’s slowly being worked into the mix.

They need a guy that can step in and keep the offense going without missing a beat. Finding a backup capable of producing at Jackson’s level is of course an absurd notion, but a veteran dual-threat quarterback with playoff experience under his belt would give Baltimore a fighting shot at a postseason run even if Jackson went down. And perhaps no one fits that bill better than Cam Newton.

With this year’s quarterback carousel still spinning at full speed, it’s hard to say with any certainty whether Newton will find a starting gig next season. Teams like the Patriots, Bears, and Broncos could all still come calling, but with so many options available in this year’s draft, there’s no certainty that a club will see the former MVP as its best available option. If that winds up being the case, he could be left looking for a backup role, and there is not a better fit for his skill set than Baltimore.

Many pegged a good portion of the Patriots’ offensive woes in 2020 on Newton, but the case can be made that he is the reason they weren’t worse than they were (7-8 in his 15 starts).

Apart from Julian Edelman, Newton’s supporting cast featured a pair of former undrafted free agents at wide receiver, a starting tailback that produced under 700 rushing yards on the season (despite having a field day against the Ravens), and a defense that was missing several key pieces due to COVID opt-outs.

Despite that, Newton still rushed for 592 yards and 12 touchdowns (the latter being fourth among all ball carriers), while tying his career-low in interceptions (10) and collecting 2657 yards through the air. Oh, and he also battled a midseason bout with COVID-19.

Newton managed to lead that group to wins over Baltimore, Miami, Arizona, and Las Vegas while keeping his team in close losses against Seattle and Buffalo (both on the road). If called into duty as Jackson’s backup, it’s easy to envision how he could build on his 2020 production with a group featuring Mark Andrews, Marquise Brown, and J.K. Dobbins instead of Jakobi Myers, Gunner Olszewski, and Damien Harris.

Should Jackson (hopefully) stay healthy, Newton could still be a useful piece in short-yardage and goal-line packages, and Greg Roman could even get creative running some option sets with both quarterbacks. Imagine defenses trying to defend a look where Newton and Jackson could both run, throw, or even roll out to receive the ball.

This would obviously never be a cornerstone of the offense but could give the club another unique wrinkle to defend against.

Newton was forced to take pennies on the dollar on his 2020 contract, and this year’s far more expansive set of available quarterbacks only makes it more likely that he’ll have to settle for a similar level of pay this coming year, making the connection a no-brainer.

The Bottom Line:

It’s never fun to think about worst-case scenarios when talking about quarterback injuries, but the Ravens have built an offense that is particularly dependent on the playmaking abilities of their star signal-caller. They can’t put themselves in a position where they’re left out to dry if the worst-case comes to pass.

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Luckily for them, there should be plenty of ways to make sure that doesn’t happen, and signing Newton is the most attractive of them all.