How many NFL teams would trade their current QB for Cam Newton right now?

How many teams would trade their current QB, right now, for Cam Newton?

This is a question I’ve been thinking about a lot over the past several weeks, as I continue to be more and more impressed (and surprised) by how well Cam Newton is transitioning to the NFL in his first season.


Cam Newton’s Impressive Start

Frankly, I did not think that Newton was going to become a good NFL quarterback. I certainly did not think it would happen this quickly. But this is why I blog about the NFL in my underpants while typing with Cheetos-stained fingers and other people get paid to scout and draft players*.

* – Of course, plenty of people who do not blog about the NFL in their underpants with Cheetos-stained fingers, and who get paid to scout players, agreed with my assessment about Newton. This just goes to show how inexact a science scouting quarterbacks can be. Except for this guy.

As good as he’s been,nobody is ready to put Cam Newton into Canton yet. It takes more than 8 statistically strong games to classify someone as an elite QB, especially when six of those games have resulted in losses.

In fact, we’re going to learn a lot about Newton over these final 8 weeks while the Panthers essentially “play out the string” and Newton is forced to endure the first losing season of his football career. Leading your team in spite of adversity is one of the most important attributes for a successful NFL QB. We’ll see if Newton has that ability. So far he’s given us no reason to doubt him.

Certainly there is no reason to doubt Newton’s physical skills. He is passing for nearly 300 yards per game (299.1), completing 60.6% of his passes, and has thrown 11 touchdown passes against 9 interceptions. Those are solid numbers for any quarterback, let alone a rookie, and they are made even more impressive when his superlative running stats added to the discussion: 5.1 yards per carry and 7 rushing touchdowns.

And the numbers don’t tell the whole story.

Whereas Tim Tebow’s numbers are not nearly as poor as you might think, and in fact compare favorably to several Hall of Famers’ stats through five starts, Tebow hasn’t looked at all like an NFL QB. Cam Newton, on the other hand, has. He’s played with poise throughout games, including late, and he’s shown that he can make all the throws. He also has shown the ability to hit guys for big plays down the field when they are a open, which is an absolute requisite skill for a quarterback in the NFL. When a QB has a chance to make a big play, it must be made more often than not; simple as that.

Newton has been far from perfect, and he has plenty of growing to do, but I don’t think anyone is anything but highly impressed with his first eight games as an NFL quarterback. Many may not have been as low on Newton as I was before the season, but I doubt anyone other than Cam himself expected this kind of success out of the gate.

And all of this leads me back to my original question: how many NFL teams would trade their QB right now for Cam Newton?

cam-newton-steve-smithHypothetically Speaking…

For our purposes, assume that everything is how it is (team records, contracts, rosters, coaches, etc) and that every NFL team is given the option of swapping its current QB right now for Newton. I admit that is 100% ridiculous because Carolina wouldn’t trade Cam Newton for anyone (except maybe Aaron Rodgers…), but humor me for the sake of discussion. The result of this hypothetical transaction would be Newton quarterbacking the team for the rest of this season, in place of their current QB, and then being their QB through the rest of his rookie contract.

There are a number of easy answers on both sides, teams that wouldn’t even think twice about saying yes or no:

  • Automatic No: New England, Pittsburgh, Green Bay, New Orleans, New York Giants
  • Automatic Yes: Miami, Cleveland, Tennessee, Jacksonville, Oakland, Kansas City, Denver, Washington, Seattle

I shouldn’t have to defend any of the automatic “no” choices. Each team has a Super Bowl-winning QB, and each team feels it is a contender this season. As tantalized as they may be by Newton, none of these teams would trade their guy for him. (And anyone who doesn’t think Eli deserves this kind of respect is, in my opinion, crazy.)

As for the automatic yeses, I can maybe-possibly see some saying that Tennessee and Jacksonville have “QBs of the future” in Jake Locker and Blaine Gabbert, but both teams would have rather had Newton in the draft and surely would rather have him now. These and the others are absolute no-brainers to me.

Now let’s go one-by-one through the remaining teams and figure out a) if they would trade their current QB for Cam Newton, and b) if they should trade their current QB for Cam Newton, because I bet the answers won’t often be the same. Of course these are all just my opinions based on how I see each team’s situation.

As always, I encourage disagreement, discussion, and even constructive criticism. That’s what comment sections are for. And there is a poll at the end of this post so we can crowdsource some kind of consensus for the non-obvious teams.

Here goes…

Buffalo Bills – Ryan Fitzpatrick (current record: 5-2)

The Bills just locked Fitzpatrick up to a long-term contract that will pay him $24 million and keep him as the signal caller in Buffalo for at least the next 2-3 years. Considering the deal Arizona signed Kevin Kolb to in the offseason, Fitzpatrick certainly deserves this contract. He has passed for 1,739 yards this year and twice as many touchdowns as interceptions, and he’s led Buffalo to first place in the AFC East. There is perhaps concern that Fitzpatrick is playing over his head, as his current completion rate is 8 points higher than his career average, and his QB rating is 20 points higher than his career average, but Fitzpatrick also could just be showing the normal progression that a good young NFL quarterback will make.

Personally, I’m not sold on Fitzpatrick as a top-tier option for the future who can compete against the likes of Brady, Roethlisberger, and Peyton Manning If He Plays Again (his new name). Fitzpatrick is a solid guy who can transition you from one franchise QB to the next, but I don’t think he is the type of QB who will make you a winner year in, year out. Cam Newton may be. But with the Bills sitting in first place in the AFC East, and the good feelings of the contract still fresh, I don’t think they’d make the move even though I would.

  • Would they? No
  • Should they? Yes

New York Jets – Mark Sanchez (4-3)

This is one of the more intriguing ones.

Even though Mark Sanchez has really done nothing to show that he can or will become a top-tier NFL quarterback (54.7% completions, 41 TD:39 INT for career), he has ridden the coattails of a great defense and an above-average running game to two straight AFC title games. His coach continues to profess confidence in him, and I think would rather win with “his guy” Sanchez, or die trying, than admit he was wrong and bring in another QB…at least right now.

Simply put: I think most objective people would make this trade in a heartbeat, and maybe the Jets front office would force it to happen; but I think Rex Ryan is so dug in with Sanchez that he’d do everything to veto it and give Sanchez another chance to finish the job this year. (I’ll be curious to hear from Jets fans on this one…)

  • Would they? No
  • Should they? Yes

Cincinnati Bengals – Andy Dalton (5-2)

Here is another one where short-term success might lead to myopic thinking.

The Bengals are, shockingly, sitting at 5-2 with their red-haired rookie QB and glue-handed rookie WR leading the offense. The Bengals’ defense has been great so far this season, but Dalton has been far from just a caretaker. He’s thrown 9 TDs and is completing 62.4% of his passes. Dalton’s sprint out of the gate has been nothing short of shocking.

But here is where I throw a little cold water on the fire: Cincinnati has beaten Cleveland, Buffalo, Jacksonville, Indianapolis, and Seattle. Buffalo is good, the other four teams are not. So do we really know how good Dalton is? I don’t think so. In his one start against a god defense this year, Week 3 versus San Francisco, he was putrid. We’ll know a lot more about Dalton after his four games against Baltimore and Pittsburgh.

Like many teams, Cincy would have jumped at the chance to draft Cam Newton, but their first place positioning in the AFC North, and the fans’ growing attachment to Dalton, plus their history of personnel ineptitude, lead me to believe that the Bengals would forgo the chance to get Newton to hang onto Dalton. It would be a mistake.

  • Would they? No
  • Should they? Yes

As you can see, I have little faith in Ryan Fitzpatrick, Mark Sanchez, or Andy Dalton, at least in relation to Cam Newton; but I also have little faith that any of their teams would trade them for Newton.

This next one though might be the most intriguing of all.

Baltimore Ravens – Joe Flacco (5-2)

Ever since Joe Flacco has taken over as QB in Baltimore, the Ravens’ offense has been as up-and-down as any offense in the NFL. Flacco has seven games in which he has tossed three or more touchdowns. He also 24 games in which he’s thrown zero touchdowns, including four playoff games (though he often gets credited with being a “winning” playoff QB). All the while, Baltimore has had a good-to-great defense and a solid running game.

Now in his fourth year, and with just one TD pass in his last four games, can the Ravens and team leaders like Ray Lewis and Terrell Suggs really still have that much confidence in Flacco? I know they call him “Joe Cool” because he never seems rattled, but that’s mostly because he barely looks like he has a pulse at times. Cam Newton also never gets rattled, but he plays with an energy and smile that are both infectious. Yes, I’m one of those who believes that how you “look” and what your body language says means something when you’re the QB. Whatever Flacco may have over Newton in experience is negated by his comatose on-field appearance.

All of this is to say that I would, in a heartbeat, trade Flacco for Newton if I was the Ravens. After the last four games, and with Lewis especially running out of time, I think the Ravens would too.

  • Would they? Yes
  • Should they? Yes

Indianapolis Colts – Peyton Manning (0-8)

Of course the Colts would trade Curtis Painter straight up for Cam Newton. Duh. But what’s the fun in that? The real juicy question would be, right this very moment, would the Colts trade Peyton Manning If He Plays Again for Newton? And the answer is that none of us have enough information to answer. It would all come down to Manning’s health.

If there is even an iota of a chance that he can come back and play at 80-85% of his previous effectiveness, Indy would hold onto Peyton. But if they doubt he ever plays again, even if he wants to and is working like the dickens to get back, wouldn’t Indy have to trade for Cam as opposed to waiting around to see if they suck enough for Luck?

Ultimately, I think the uncertainty would tip the scales in favor of keeping Manning, and that’s the right call. It feels like there is something unfinished about Manning’s tenure in Indianapolis, and though I logically know that neck injuries can end careers, I’d still be shocked if Manning never suits up for Indy again. So I can’t see Indy pulling the trigger on this move. And with the team possibly positioning itself to draft Andrew Luck anyway, there would be no reason to trade Manning before they know as much as possible about his potential comeback.

I anticipate a lot of debate and perhaps disagreement about this one. In fact, I’m already starting to disagree with myself. I better just move along.

  • Would they? No
  • Should they? No

Houston Texans – Matt Schaub (5-3)

I don’t think for a second that Houston would even entertain this thought, not with Schaub and Kubiak finally on the cusp of making it to the playoffs. As good/bland as Schaub may be, good/bland isn’t necessarily an awful thing for a QB to be on a team that has a great running game, an elite WR, and a strong defense. This is the first time Houston has had all three working in the same season, and Schaub is the right guy to lead them. I wouldn’t mess with what they have going right now, not with the AFC South up for grabs this year and into the future, and I don’t think they would either.

  • Would they? No
  • Should they? No

San Diego Chargers – Philip Rivers (4-2)

Coming into this season it would have seemed laughable for Philip Rivers to be on this list, and perhaps it still is, but Rivers has thrown 7 TDs against 9 INTs this year, and it’s not like he has a Super Bowl title or many playoff skins on the wall to grant him immunity from at least entering this discussion.

Still, I doubt there is a chance the Chargers would seriously consider it. Rivers has a strong regular season track record over multiple seasons, and he has undoubtedly been hurt by Antonio Gates’ absence early this season. Just like I don’t think teams should overreact to a fast early season start and overrate their players (as may be the case right now in Buffalo and Cincy), I don’t think teams should underrate their players because of a slow start.

The irony of ironies, of course, is that the slow-starting Chargers are off to a fast 4-2 start during the season when their QB has more or less stunk. Go figure.

  • Would they? No
  • Should they? No

Philadelphia Eagles – Michael Vick (3-4)

Another one that is fascinating to think about. The Eagles went all-in on this season and are just now starting to dig themselves out of their early season hole. As tempting as it might be to get Newton, who is similar to Vick but with 6-7 years less mileage, I can’t see Andy Reid doing it. Vick is the better choice for this season and the Eagles are in it to win it in 2011.

That said, I think Newton is showing the ability to do a lot of the things Vick couldn’t or wouldn’t do early in his career. I’d love to see what Reid could do with a guy like Newton, who is not quite the runner Vick is but who is light years ahead of where Vick was as a passer in his rookie season. Just because the Eagles picked this year as the year to go for it all doesn’t mean they should necessarily mortgage a chance to improve themselves for the long term. And is Vick really playing so well that Newton couldn’t come close to replicating him, thus keeping the Eagles in contention this year? I don’t think so.

  • Would they? No
  • Should they? Yes

Dallas Cowboys – Tony Romo (3-4)

Whatever my answer is here it is sure to stir up some controversy, just because that’s how any discussions about Tony Romo are sure to go.

I’ve always been a Romo supporter, thinking that his critics didn’t give him enough credit for being one of the top 10 QBs in the league. While I still think Romo is an above average QB, I’m not as sold on him anymore as a potential champion. Sure, with the right supporting cast he could win a Super Bowl – hell, Trent Dilfer won a Super Bowl – but I’m no longer sure that Romo can lead a franchise to a Super Bowl, and there is a big difference.

I don’t know if Cam Newton can lead a team to a Super Bowl either. It’s way to early to even consider such questions. But we did just see him lead his college team to a championship in the toughest conference in all of college football, all while rumors and innuendo and investigations were swirling around him constantly. Newton’s got it, whatever it is, and Tony Romo hasn’t proven that he does. So wouldn’t it be worth taking a chance on Newton if you’re convinced Romo probably can’t be the guy to lead a champion?

The answer to this one comes down to your belief in Romo. I no longer believe. Give me Cam. Unfortunately for Cowboys fans, Jerry Jones probably still believes in Romo. At the least, he believes in his own ego and won’t want to admit Romo can’t get it done. Hell, he wouldn’t even trade Martellus Bennett to Cincinnati for a second round pick. Why would he trade Romo for Newton?

  • Would they? No
  • Should they? Yes

Detroit Lions – Matthew Stafford (6-2)

I considered putting the Lions in the automatic no category, but Mr. Glass didn’t deserve to be considered on par with Brady, Ben, Aaron Rogers, and Drew Brees. He hasn’t played a full season yet, and he hasn’t been so transcendent when he has played that Detroit wouldn’t at least consider the move.

I don’t think they’d do it though. Even with Stafford making way more money than Cam, he is the guy they have built around, and I don’t think the Lions would shake up the franchise that drastically when it is finally experiencing a true ascension.

As for me, I’d do it. Cam is showing that he knows how to utilize a top-fight receiver, and he he does not carry the same injury-prone reputation of Stafford. Add in the cost savings of Newton’s contract over Stafford’s, and I’d much rather have the rookie over the third year guy, even for the rest of the this year and certainly beyond.

  • Would they? No
  • Should they? Yes

Chicago Bears – Jay Cutler (4-3)

See the entry above about Joe Flacco, replace his name with “Jay Cutler” and replace “Ray Lewis” with “Brian Urlacher”. There is no reason for me to repeat myself.

  • Would they? Yes
  • Should they? Yes

Minnesota Vikings – Christian Ponder (2-6)

Ponder and the Vikings beat Newton and the Panthers this past weekend, with Ponder having his second straight impressive start. And while Vikings fans are slowly talking themselves into the Ponder Era, the reality is that the Vikings would have traded St. Paul to draft Newton last year, and as polished as Ponder seems to be both on and off the field, he doesn’t have 1/10th the physical potential of Newton. Minnesota probably should have been an automatic.

  • Would they? Yes
  • Should they? Yes

Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Josh Freeman (4-3)

Freeman was the up-and-coming superstar young quarterback coming into this season, but he has fallen back down to earth a bit through the first half of the year. His interceptions are way up, and he just doesn’t seem as comfortable or confident as he was last year, when he and rookie Mike Williams were as explosive as just about any QB-WR combo in the league.

Still, despite his struggles, I think Tampa Bay is committed to Freeman as the future of its franchise, and I know that Raheem Morris (who coached Freeman in college) believes in his young QB. Freeman is another guy who surprised me by having a smoother transition to the NFL than I thought he would. He has all of the physical tools to bust out of his current slump and still become a top-10 QB. I’d hold tight, and I think Tampa Bay would too.

  • Would they? No
  • Should they? No

Atlanta Falcons – Matt Ryan (4-3)

Like the Lions with Stafford, I don’t think Atlanta would consider making this move for more than a few seconds, but Ryan is not quite the slam dunk franchise QB that some make him out to be. He has not risen to the occasion in the Falcons’ biggest games, and he does not possess the accuracy that the top flight quarterbacks all have. He does “look” the part, he’s tough, and he’s a strong leader, which is why Atlanta is surely satisfied with Ryan and not looking to move on, nor should they be. As many questions as I have about Ryan, he’s shown enough to make me think that, unlike Romo, he could lead a franchise to a Super Bowl. With the investment Atlanta has already made in him, they’d hold tight, and I agree.

  • Would they? No
  • Should they? No

San Francisco 49ers – Alex Smith (6-1)

Another very, very intriguing one simply because of how this season has started. This one falls right in line with the Bills and Bengals, two teams doing far better than anyone expected thanks to solid play from their QB. Smith has not been asked to win games for the 49ers this year, he’s just been asked not to lose them with a great defense and solid running game by his side. And he hasn’t.

Still, this is Alex Smith. He has not done anything spectacular this year that Cam Newton couldn’t have done, even as a rookie. The issue would be whether Newton would have made mistakes that Smith wouldn’t have made to sabotage the 49ers in a game or two. That I don’t know. But I do know that, again, this is Alex Smith. As solid as he’s been, and as much of an impact as Jim Harbaugh has made on him, the difference in talent and swagger between he and Newton is obvious.

To me, the 6-1 record of the 49ers, and their incredible four game lead this early in this season, would make the team more likely to do such a deal. They’d have some cushion if Newton struggled to adapt to his new surroundings; though one thing we have learned about Newton is that he rarely if ever struggles to adapt. It may be his greatest strength of all.

  • Would they? Yes (Well…maybe…probably)
  • Should they? Yes

St. Louis Rams – Sam Bradford (1-6)

Following right along with my thoughts on Stafford and Ryan, I don’t think there is much of a chance that St. Louis would pull the plug on the Bradford Era already, especially considering Bradford was the NFL’s Rookie of the Year last year and just needs protection and a few good targets to showcase his pinpoint accuracy. But like Stafford and Ryan, Bradford hasn’t earned Automatic No status. So the Rams might think about it, especially considering the money, but I think they’d stick with Bradford, and I wouldn’t blame them. I still think he’s going to be a star.

  • Would they? No
  • Should they? No

Arizona Cardinals – Kevin Kolb (1-6)

I thought long and hard about putting Arizona in Automatic Yes territory, but would they really cut the cord on Kolb so soon after giving him a long-term deal? Of course they should, but we know how egos sometimes get in the way of sound decision making, so I just wonder if they would.

Ultimately, I think so. Larry Fitzgerald has to be watching Cam Newton resuscitate Steve Smith’s career and get horribly jealous. That’s what Kolb was supposed to do for Fitzy, but obviously he hasn’t come close. Not that Arizona should be surprised by this mind you, because Kolb is basically just doing exactly what he did in Philadelphia. What, should he have turned down the money?

I don’t think it would take Arizona very long to say yes here.

  • Would they? Yes
  • Should they? Yes



So, how many teams would trade their current QB for Cam Newton right now?

Okay, let’s tally up the “would they” column, as decided by me:

  • No: Buffalo, New York Jets, Cincinnati, Indianapolis, Houston, San Diego, Philadelphia, Dallas, Detroit, Tampa Bay, Atlanta, St. Louis
  • Yes: Baltimore, Chicago, Minnesota, San Francisco, Arizona

Combined with the automatics from up above, that means I think 14 teams would trade their current starting quarterback straight up for Cam Newton. That seems very low to me; and of course it would seem low to me because I personally project a lot of disconnect between what teams should do and what they would do were this a real rather than hypothetical situation.

If I tally it up in terms of my “should they” answers, it would look much different:

  • No: Indianapolis, Houston, San Diego, Tampa Bay, Atlanta, St. Louis
  • Yes: Buffalo, New York Jets, Baltimore, Cincinnati, Philadelphia, Dallas, Chicago, Detroit, Minnesota, San Francisco, Arizona

Based on what I would do in each team’s case, I think 20 teams’ QB situations would be improved immediately with Cam Newton. Maybe for a few there would be a short-term step back, but it would be worth it for the projected long-term steps forward.

But what I am really interested in here is your opinion.

Below is a poll that lists all of the teams I think are not obvious. Vote for all of the ones who you think should (not necessarily would) trade their current QB straight up for Cam Newton in our hypothetical fantasy. Then take to the comment section to state your peace or to agree/disagree with any of my assessments.

[poll id=”339″]

I invite your thoughts below.

About the Author

Jerod Morris

I love words. I write for Copyblogger and founded MSF, The Assembly Call, & Primility. I practice yoga, eat well, & strive for balance. I love life. Namaste. Say hi on Twitter, Facebook, & G+.