By Andy Goddard (@Godsy1985)
Just when you thought 2020 couldn’t surprise you anymore, Cam Newton is a Patriot! The news broke early Monday morning that the Patriots and Newton had agreed on an incentive-laden 1 year deal which has led to a rather large split in the fan base.
Newton, 31, had been without a team since his release from the Carolina Panthers in March 2020 and questions will still be asked regarding his recent injuries and ability to perform. The former league MVP only managed to play 2 games in the 2019 season due to a Lisfranc fracture and he also required surgery for a shoulder injury in March 2017.
Regardless of the injury concerns, this deal just makes too much sense for both parties. In a league where every other starting quarterback job is occupied, the Patriots give Newton the most realistic opportunity to compete for a starting job. The Patriots may still believe in Jarrett Stidham as a starting QB but the chance to sign someone of Newton’s calibre was always going to be of interest to head coach, Bill Belichick.
The self proclaimed ‘Super-Cam’ has a resume that speaks for itself. In 2015, Newton lead the Carolina Panthers to the Super Bowl and was awarded the league MVP after a 15-1 season. He has been selected to three pro bowls, was the 2011 rookie of the year and holds numerous Panthers and NFL records.
Bill Belichick will be happy to have Cam on the Patriots roster. Newton has a 2-0 record against the Patriots throwing for 6 touchdowns and just 1 interception with a 72% completion rate! Furthermore, Newton has a great record against all of the AFC East teams boasting a 7-1 record with 14 touchdowns and 3 interceptions.
This is a typical Belichick move. Heading into the 2020 season, the Patriots have no cap space and appeared to be ready to roll with Jarrett Stidham as their starter at quarterback but they have managed to work a deal that will cost the league minimum for a former league MVP! Newton can reportedly earn up to $7.5m with incentives.
The Patriots could have just come away with the bargain of the off-season, the risk versus reward just makes this a no-brainer. If Newton can return to anywhere near his 2015 form, both parties will be able to work out a longer deal. If Cam plays well and is picked up as a free agent at the end of the 2020 season, then the Patriots could get a 3rd round compensatory pick in the 2022 draft, and If Cam is cut then there isn’t a big hit to the salary cap.
So why is there such a split in the fanbase? To say Cam Newton is eccentric is an understatement. He is very outspoken to the point of arrogance and some people cannot get over the fact he didn’t try to recover a fumble in Super Bowl 50, where he appeared to shy away from taking a hit. Unfortunately for Cam, he is following Tom Brady who was always seen as a ‘team player’ restructuring contracts and making decisions to give the team the best chance for success.
Then we have the injury concerns.
A fit and healthy Cam Newton would not have been available for the league minimum and he hasn’t been healthy since the first half of 2018! With the current corona virus outbreak, teams haven’t been able to get Newton in for a workout so it was always going to be hard to get a team to commit to him as a starter on significant money.
Before the injuries in 2018, Cam Newton had started the season very well leading the Panthers to a 6-2 start. Newton had a passer rating of 100.8 (10th in the league) after Norv Turner adapted the offense and gave Cam shorter passes to throw. This led to his completion percentage rising to 67.3 percent and averaging 4 touchdowns to every interception. Newton then suffered the shoulder injury that would later lead to surgery.
However, one distinction that needs to be made is that Newton had fully healed from the shoulder surgery and during the pre season camp (following surgery) it was reported that Newton had rediscovered the deep ball and looked to be back in primary position to lead the Panthers offense. In fact, at the start of the 2019 season he was overthrowing receivers as he appeared to be struggling when planting his foot, not struggling to get velocity on the ball.
Cam Newton will head into camp to battle it out with Jarrett Stidham to be the starter come week 1 and right now it’s difficult to know which quarterback the Patriots will go with. Is it possible for Newton to fit into the current Pats offence or is Josh McDaniels and Bill Belichick formulating a new playbook to maximise Newtons assets? Josh McDaniels managed to get to the playoffs with Tim Tebow playing quarterback, and actually win one game. Cam’s skillset is much higher than Tebow so the thought of a McDaniels offense with Newton under center is an exciting proposition, especially with a solid offensive line. The Patriots offence morphs from game to game, highlighting other teams weaknesses and putting their players in the best position to succeed so a new scheme wouldn’t be a big surprise.
One major advantage is that the Patriots had already been planning around a run heavy offense by investing in their offensive line, David Andrews returning from IR, signing fullback Danny Vitale and drafting two tight ends who can both block. The Patriots will surely utilise zone read option plays and may even look at what Baltimore did in the 2019 season as a blueprint.
Belichick is a coaching genius but he has never had a player with the skillset of Cam Newton. The 9 year vet has a great chance of starting week 1 and succeeding in the 2020 season. The former number 1 overall pick in 2011 may see this as his last chance and that may be bad news for the rest of the league.
Have the Patriots just become real contenders again or is ‘Super Cam’ now just ‘backup Cam’? If he is fit and healthy, the Patriots have their new man under Center!