In the wake of quarterback Tom Brady leaving the New England Patriots, one way head coach Bill Belichick could have yet another chance at the playoffs would be to sign the free agent, Cam Newton.
True, Newton hasn’t been anything close to the MVP-level player he was back in 2015 when the Panthers reached the Super Bowl. In fairness to Newton, who was ultimately jettisoned by his longstanding team not long ago, Carolina didn’t exactly protect its top investment over the years, both in terms of literal up-front protection and by the way they used him as an offensive weapon.
Newton, who’ll turn 31 years old later this spring, will likely never return to the kind of player he was during his heyday years.
But when doing the visual and statistical comparisons between the three-time Pro Bowler and the Patriots’ current options under center in the wake of Tom Brady‘s departure to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Jarrett Stidham and Brian Hoyer, it’s not hard to see why Newton is a clear-cut upgrade.
"I understand Pats fans might say, “Once upon a time a sixth-round pick, who didn’t play, came in in Year 2 and turned into Tom Brady.” That is a true story. It is also close to a fairy tale story because it never happens, other than the one time it did. …You simply don’t find franchise guys in the late rounds of the draft. …Jarrett Stidham is a backup quarterback who might be forced to become a starting quarterback."
All indications, at least so far, point to head coach Bill Belichick wanting Stidham to start. True, he looked good enough in the preseason a year ago. And the team cleared up competition under center by parting ways with depth quarterback Cody Kessler.
Yet Newton, even though he’s arguably beyond his prime, would be going to a team still with a chance to make the postseason now. Newton would be an added touch, joining a well-led coaching staff with an offensive system in place built for success. New England offers nothing of the kind of context Newton dealt with in Carolina the past few years.
Still, there are those who’d argue a Newton-to-Patriots deal makes no sense. One argument is the difference in football opinion between Newton and Belichick. Meanwhile, The Athletic’s Jeff Howe (h/t NESN) reported the Pats aren’t interested in Newton at all:
"[A] source has said the Patriots have expressed no interest in signing Cam Newton or trading for [Cincinnati Bengals quarterback] Andy Dalton — the two most popular speculated moves — nor do they have the cap space to make such a transaction.So it’ll be Stidham. It’d hardly be a surprise if they open camp with Hoyer as the starter and force Stidham to wrest away the job, but a dose of adversity should help the kid if that’s the route they choose. Either way, as long as Stidham maintains his pace from last summer, it should be his job."
From the cap perspective, this does make some sense. Currently, according to Over the Cap, the Patriots have a mere $893,436 in available space. Even if Newton comes in on a bargain-basement deal for a veteran, Belichick would have to engineer some moves to create more space, either going with the cap-casualty route or managing some extensions/restructures.
Both avenues have their associated risks as far as short- and long-term implications go.
That said, Belichick has one ultimate goal: winning. It’s possible he’s looking at 2020 as a retooling year, possibly even going as far as “tanking” this season in favor of a high 2021 NFL Draft pick to target someone like Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence.
Perhaps. But that’s not Belichick’s M.O.
Plus, there’s the defensive element New England possesses. Given the volatile and up-and-down natures of defenses from year to year, one can figure last year’s elite Pats defense won’t carry over automatically into 2021, let alone 2020.
So if that window is open, why not bring aboard Newton?
If it works, the Patriots retain their Super Bowl window. If it doesn’t, New England isn’t in any worse of a situation for trying.