The Buffalo Bills are the favorites to win the AFC East in 2020. The team deserves this type of hype and respect with the talent they have put together. The biggest concern for the Bills, with not many glaring roster holes up to this point, is the backup quarterback. Insert Cam Newton. NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported earlier in May that Newton was open to being a backup quarterback. Newton would be a valuable insurance policy, provided he is healthy if anything were to prevent Josh Allen from taking the field.
Let’s examine who the Bills have on their roster at quarterback. Matt Barkley. We know him to be an anticipation thrower. He makes smart decisions with the football but is limited athletically and will not run around like Josh Allen. We don’t know much about Davis Webb as an NFL quarterback other than he’s tall. He lost his job to Patrick Mahomes at Texas Tech in 2015 after suffering a season-ending ankle injury. And Jake Fromm, a fifth-round rookie.
He is much more similar to Barkley, which is where the Bills believe he can compete for a roster spot. That’s four quarterbacks if you include Josh Allen. The Bills will likely move on from Webb after training camp. Right now he is simply a camp arm. We know the Bills are not placing Fromm on the practice squad where he can be signed away by other teams. And of course, Matt Barkley is slated to be the Bills primary backup this fall. So if Allen cannot play, the Bills will trot out Matt Barkley and Jake Fromm. That’s not sexy. It sounds like the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2019 who lost Ben Roethlisberger for the season and missed the post-season by one game.
Would Newton Stunt Allen’s Growth?
Lots of people believe bringing in Newton would stunt Allen’s growth. It would be quite the opposite. Newton and Allen are similar in playing style and they both possess elite running ability. Although Newton has been slowed by injuries he would be an upgrade over any quarterback on the Bills roster if called upon in spot duty. He would arguably be the best backup quarterback in the AFC East.
He’s easily better than Joe Flacco, who the New York Jets signed even though he won’t be ready Week 1. Newton could help Allen become a better version of himself. He could mentor Allen on taking care of his body, which Newton has undeniably learned over the course of his career. He could help Josh Allen learn how he blossomed into the NFL MVP in 2015. No other quarterback on the Bills roster is more qualified to help Josh Allen butterfly into a poor man’s Cam Newton than Newton himself. If Allen were to go down for any reason in 2020 the Bills will regret not upgrading at backup quarterback by the end of the season.
What if Newton is better than Josh Allen?
The Bills should not be afraid to have the best players on the field. The players who give the team the best chance to win should be on the field doing just that. If for any reason, Josh Allen cannot beat out an older and slower Cam Newton in training camp, should Bills fans really be upset? Remember back in 2014 when former Bills head coach Doug Marrone yanked second-year quarterback EJ Manuel after only starting 14 career games? The Bills brought in Kyle Orton, who led the Bills to their best regular season in 10 years. The leadership has changed in Buffalo but the NFL is a business. If Newton is better and more productive than Allen, then he should be on the field giving the team the best chance to win.
Newton would ruin the culture
Cam Newton would not be a locker room distraction or a threat to the culture. One player should not be able to ruin that. Newton has shown the ability to raise the level of play from his teammates and help get the most out of them on the field. Name one wide receiver from the 2015 Carolina Panthers team. Cam Newton led the Panthers to a 15-1 season without his best wide receiver. The Bills should want players like that on their roster.
Teams call player-only meetings when they need to address situations between one another. The Bills have a leadership council, which is a group of veteran players who can manage themselves and act as a liaison between the players and the front office. If Newton poses any threat to the culture or brand the Bills are building, bet your last dollar, the players would handle it before it became an issue.
The culture argument is more of a shot at who Newton is as an individual. Perception. The Bills traded for Antonio Brown during the 2019 offseason knowing full-well what type of player and character Brown was. At that point, it was about having elite playmakers on the field. Why should it be any different adding Cam Newton?
The Bills could sign Newton to a one-year deal. The bulk of the deal could be incentive-based. Similar to what the Dallas Cowboys gave Andy Dalton. According to Spotrac.com Dalton signed a one-year deal with a $1 million base salary and a $2 million signing bonus. He can earn an additional $4 million in incentives if he plays 35% of the snaps and plays in half the Super Bowl or wins the Super Bowl. It is a very team-friendly deal.
This would work financially for the Bills if they sign Newton to a similar contract. The Bills have almost $20 million available in cap space right now. And the team could still shed salary by releasing Trent Murphy who has a $9 million cap hit. But Murphy is a discussion for another day. The point is, the money works for the Bills to add Newton. He would be an affordable one-year contract with no strings attached.
Other backup quarterbacks
The New York Jets trotted out Luke Falk, Trevor Siemian, and David Fales. They lost all their starts. The Jets missed the playoffs by two and a half games. They could have used a backup like Newton last season. Same for the Pittsburgh Steelers who we talked about before. Both backup quarterbacks on the Carolina Panthers roster had losing records in 2019. And the Detroit Lions had to play David Blough and Jeff Driskel in 2019. They lost all eight starts. You get the picture.
Some teams who employed quality backups in 2019 fared well in spot duty last season. The New Orleans Saints carried backup quarterback Teddy Bridgewater in 2019. When Drew Brees went down with an injury, Bridgewater stepped in and won all five starts. When the Tennessee Titans decided it was time to sit Marcus Mariota in 2019, Ryan Tannehill led them to the AFC Championship and received a lucrative contract as a reward. For the Bills to ignore the need to upgrade at backup quarterback would be a waste of a roster build.
During an interview on the Pat McAfee Show Brandon Beane was asked if the Bills have any interest in signing Cam Newton. Brandon Beane replied, “Josh Allen is our guy. We did draft Jake Fromm, we didn’t anticipate that. He’ll compete with Matt Barkley in a backup type role, but other than that Josh is our guy.”
It’s pretty clear the Bills have no intention of signing another quarterback at this stage of the offseason. And I’m certainly not suggesting Cam Newton should be the starter in Buffalo. However, everything works for the Bills to bring in Newton as a backup. If the Bills don’t get quality production from their backups in 2020 they will regret not addressing backup quarterback come season’s end.
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