For the second time, Pro Football Focus has projected that the Bengals will sign former NFL Most Valuable Player Cam Newton in the offseason. Even at the low cost Newton is projected at it’s difficult to see the Bengals signing the quarterback. Newton struggled with the New England Patriots in 2020.
The Bengals are more likely to spend their money elsewhere than for a backup QB. The play of backups QB Brandon Allen after Joe Burrow was lost for the season likely earned him the Bengals backup role in 2021 over Ryan Finley. With Burrow expected to return for the start of the season signing Newton would be surprising.
Newton struggled in 2020. In 15 games, all starts in 2020, Newton completed 65.8 percent of his passes for 2,657 yards, eight touchdowns and 10 interceptions. Newton was an effective runner with 537 yards rushing and an NFL leading 12 TDs on the ground for QBs. Newton was 28th in passer rating and 30th in QBR.
PFF highlights the career Newton has had as a passer. The 2015 MVP season Newton had leading the Carolina Panthers to the Super Bowl was more of an aberration than the norm. Newton was praised as being an effective QB when the offense is built around his skill set. In Cincinnati that is not going to happen.
"34. QB CAM NEWTONOutside of Newton’s 2015 MVP season in which he graded at 86.5 overall, he’s been a mid-level passer with the added upside of what he brings to the run game. Newton is a monster in short yardage, and an effective offense can be built around that skillset.However, the 2015 season is far more of an outlier than the norm at this point, and Newton’s accuracy and decision making limit his potential in the passing game. He has two top-10 finishes in PFF quarterback rankings in his 10 years in the league.Contract Analysis: Newton was available for the entirety of the 2020 offseason until the Patriots swooped in at the last moment to offer him a one-year deal with a base value of just $1.75 million.Newton’s injuries were the primary obstacle keeping teams at bay, and although his 2020 campaign has been far from perfect, he’s third among all quarterbacks with 94 rushing attempts through Week 12 (trailing only Lamar Jackson and Kyler Murray).He may not be the MVP-caliber quarterback he once was, but he’s made it clear he still deserves to play in this league. There have been some rough outings, but given his circumstances (new team, truncated offseason, worst WR/TE group in the NFL, contracting COVID-19) he has also performed admirably for stretches of games.Prediction: Bengals sign Newton to a fully guaranteed one-year, $5 million contract."
Newton finished second among all QBs in 2020 in rushing attempts and third behind Lamar Jackson of Baltimore and Kyler Murray of Arizona in rushing yards. The Bengals offense with Burrow brings far different traits than Newton would. Cincinnati needs a QB they can develop who has similar traits to Burrow.
Clearly not as talented as Burrow, Allen showed the ability to succeed in the passing game as he gained more experience in the Bengals offense. Allen completed 63.4 percent of his passes in 2020 for 925 yards, five TDs and four interceptions. Allen had an 82.0 passer rating and 44.9 QBR. Newton was 82.9 and 47.2.
Allen is an unrestricted free agent this offseason who made $339,000 in 2020. Due for a raise, Allen still would not make nearly the $5 million that PFF is projecting that Newton would sign with the Bengals in 2021. Cincinnati should spend the money wiser, re-sign Allen and be able to distribute the money more efficiently.