The New England Patriots may have just flipped the script on their 2020 season by signing free agent QB Cam Newton — assuming he’s healthy, that is.
There’s a major caveat attached to this weekend’s big news story about the New England Patriots signing Cam Newton.
It’s spelled H-E-A-L-T-H.
When healthy, Newton is a generational-type NFL talent. A former No. 1 overall pick out of Auburn University, the 6’5, 245-pound athletic freak helped usher in the era of two-way quarterbacks who can roast defenses with both their arm and their legs.
The problem with Newton is that “when healthy” bit.
He’s still just 31 years old, and yet after the Carolina Panthers released him in March, he remained a free agent for over three months with little-to-no interest from any team until the Pats reportedly signed him to a one-year, incentives-laden deal on Sunday.
This is the same player who was the NFL MVP during the 2015 season, who took his team to the Super Bowl that year, and who has earned three Pro Bowl nods (2011, 2013, 2015) in his career.
Newton has also taken more sacks during his nine seasons in the league than any quarterback has a right to. His offensive lines in Carolina were often porous, and Newton didn’t necessarily do himself any favors by throwing his body against opposing defenders on certain running plays over the years, either.
Cam Newton joins a formidable Patriots system — on paper, at least
He’s joining a Patriots offense captained by the brilliant Bill Belichick and creative Josh McDaniels, however. He should also immediately find more relief playing behind what will be the best offensive line he’s ever had — assuming the 2020 starters remain healthy (Isaiah Wynn, Joe Thuney, David Andrews, Shaq Mason, and Marcus Cannon).
On top of the massive upgrades Newton’s inheriting in his coaches and offensive line, he’s also getting arguably the NFL’s deepest and most versatile running back platoon with the Patriots.
Sony Michel, James White, Rex Burkhead, Damien Harris, and Brandon Bolden will help take some of the immediate pressure off Newton, should he win the starting QB job over second-year player Jarrett Stidham.
His tight ends and wide receivers are nothing to write home about, but then again, he never had much of a supporting cast at those positions in Carolina either.
Greg Olsen was good at tight end and Kelvin Benjamin was briefly good at wideout, but you can easily argue that the 2020 Patriots cast (Julian Edelman, Mohamed Sanu, N’Keal Harry, etc) offers more upside than his Panthers crews.
The real question, of course, is Newton himself though.
He has all the skills and talent to immediately take this Patriots offense to another level in a post-Tom Brady world. His arrival immediately altered New England’s odds to win the AFC East, win the AFC, and win the Super Bowl.
The caveat, though, is his health. After battling shoulder and foot injuries that have hampered his career the past few seasons, just how ready to go will he be — especially in a pandemic-shortened/altered offseason?
That will be the question everyone is following over the coming months between now and the start of the regular season.