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Cam Newton is attempting a comeback. Lamar Jackson wants a contract. The two don’t appear related.
But maybe they are?
There are a lot of similarities between Cam Newton and Lamar Jackson. Both rely on elite athleticism to be elite NFL quarterbacks. Both are below-average passers. Jackson is a slightly better passer than Newton, but Newton is much bigger.
Both players are former NFL MVPs. Cam Newton led the 2015 Carolina Panthers to the Super Bowl following a 15-1 regular season. Jackson has never advanced past the Divisional Round of the NFL Playoffs.
By age 30, Newton’s career was basically over. He started two games in 2019 before becoming the starting quarterback for the New England Patriots in 2020. He started 15 games, but he was BAD (eight touchdown passes, ten interceptions in 15 starts) and the team missed the playoffs.
Carolina, desperate for quarterback help, brought him back in 2021. The team went 0-5 in his five starts.
Since turning 30, Newton has thrown 12 touchdown passes and 16 interceptions. Prior to Newton’s 30th birthday, he averaged 5.2 yards per carry in his NFL career. Since, that number is 4.3.
This is why teams are hesitant to give Lamar Jackson a long-term deal worth over $200 million in guaranteed money.
As I’ve written in the past, there’s no question that Jackson makes most NFL teams better next season. Newton won his MVP when he was 26 years old. Jackson turned 26 in January. And he’s already won an MVP.
Now, it should be said that Jackson is a better player than Newton ever was. Jackson’s career completion percentage of 63.7% is far better than Newton’s (59.9%). Lamar Jackson has 101 career touchdown passes and 38 interceptions.
Even during his prime, Newton’s TD-INT ration wasn’t as good as Jackson’s. Newton tossed 182 TD passes prior to turning 30, but had 102 interceptions.
Jackson also has two 1,000+ yard rushing seasons under his belt. Newton never rushed for more than 754 yards in a season. Jackson has four seasons better than Newton’s BEST season.
So, it’s possible that Jackson’s shelf life is longer than Newton’s. But how much longer? The drop-off at age 30 for Newton was stark. Does Jackson get to 31? 32?
Jackson is a better passer than Newton, but he’s not an above-average thrower of the football. With his crazy athleticism, though, it doesn’t matter. But when the athleticism wanes, it’s going to matter.
Teams know this. I still believe some team is going to roll the dice and try to win a Super Bowl with Lamar Jackson in the next three years. You know, before he turns 30.
But there’s a reason the Ravens only offered him three guaranteed years in their contract offer. They know Jackson’s going to fall off hard with age.
There’s a reason Jackson turned down that offer and wants more years: he knows it, too.
Follow Dan Zaksheske on Twitter: @RealDanZak