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There was some brief speculation that the New Orleans Saints could turn to the best available free agent quarterback looking for work when Jameis Winston was lost for the season with a knee injury, but they quickly made it clear that Cam Newton wasn’t an option.

Now he’s returned to the Carolina Panthers, per multiple reports on Thursday. Newton has given the Saints more trouble over the last decade than any other NFC South quarterback, going 7-8 (.467) compared to Matt Ryan’s 10-16 record (.385) or Winston’s 3-6 mark (.333) in his time with Tampa Bay.

Between his ability to toss the ball over a mountaintop and the threat of creating a big play with his legs — to say nothing of how tough it is to drag the 245 pounder to the ground — Newton has challenged New Orleans’ defenses more consistently than anyone else in the division.

Maybe this could have been avoided. Newton signed with Carolina on a contract reportedly valued at up to $10 million for the rest of the season, with $4.5 million guaranteed. That isn’t something the Saints could hope to match. I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt and speculate that an exploratory call with Newton may have found his price was too high for New Orleans.

A less charitable reading says that the Saints dismissed Newton out of hand in favor of starting either Trevor Siemian or Taysom Hill. It’s been commonly echoed on social media that Newton wouldn’t fit the Saints schematically, but that’s a bunk argument. Hill isn’t a better fit for Siemian’s playbook or Winston’s. If Sean Payton is willing to bend over backwards in drawing up plays for the quarterbacks he already has, why can’t he show the same enthusiasm for someone more accomplished than each of them put together?

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Whatever the case, Newton is in Carolina again. And the Panthers will visit the Saints for a rematch of their surprising Week 2 victory on Jan. 2, 2022, during Week 17. That game might carry real playoff implications if the Saints can’t steady their ship through the next two months. Hopefully the decision to pass on Newton doesn’t come back to haunt them.

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