The former first overall pick and NFL MVP is headed to New England, and he is a perfect fit for the Patriots.
On Sunday the New England Patriots signed former first overall pick and MVP Cam Newton to an incentives based one year contract. Newton, at thirty one years old, spent the first nine years of his career with the Carolina Panthers before being released after the 2019 season.
I wrote an article over a month ago, Why does Cam Newton not have a job?, in which I listed the five teams most likely to sign him, the Patriots being one of them. Now, it is a reality.
Cam Newton career stats:
This is absolutely a win win situation for the Patriots, and maybe you could add another win in there. If Cam Newton wins the starting job in New England, which he most likely will do, then wonderful. He is most certainly more talented and more of a pro ready quarterback right now than Jarrett Stidham. If Stidham manages to beat out Newton, then that is quite the statement, and if he doesn't, he has another year to learn and grow as a backup.
Newton was the NFL's MVP in 2015 while leading the Panthers to a 15-1 record, and all the way to the Super Bowl. Through 2016 and '17 he was decent, but his best wide receiver was Kelvin Benjamin, and he pretty much had no offensive line. Even under those circumstances he managed to get 3868, and then 4056 total yards.
The injury concern started in 2018. He had a very successful first half of the season while leading the Panthers to a 6-2 record. In that time he greatly improved his completion percentage, and threw at nearly a four touchdown to one interception rate. He truly was playing like his MVP self, and was one of the best quarterbacks in the league. Then his shoulder started bothering him. He played through it for a while, but the Panthers eventually shut him down late in the season. He underwent shoulder surgery that offseason.
Now this is where some of the confusion starts with Newton's injury history. Before the 2019 season he was fully returned to health, and ready to begin the season as Carolina's starting QB. Then, in a preseason game against the Patriots, he suffered a Linsfranc injury to his left foot. It continued to bother him into the season, and a few games in, the Panthers put him on the IR, which meant no more football in 2019.
The thing with a Linsfranc injury for a quarterback is that it really isn't career impacting. ESPN's Bill Barnwell reported that, "Matt Schaub hit injured reserve with a Lisfranc injury in 2011 and returned to make the Pro Bowl the following season. Taysom Hill suffered a Lisfranc injury in college, and while it cost the BYU quarterback most of his senior year, he has been able to return and move just fine."
So the simple fact is, Newton is not injury prone. In the first eight seasons of his career, Newton missed all of five total games. In addition his last injury was pretty much a fluke injury in which he should be completely healed.
An ACL tear is quite a bit worse than what Newton has suffered from by the way. In addition, in each of their first eight NFL seasons, this is how Brady and Newton compare:
Now I am by no means trying to compare Newton's career to Brady's, but what I am trying to show is that Newton has a lot of potential to lead New England back to success.
The thing that has made the Patriots offense so successful over the last twenty or so years is versatility. Randy Moss and Wes Welker, Rob Gronkowski with Wes Welker and then Julian Edelman. Through that time a transition of running backs, but of good backs. When players can do multiple things in an offense it just makes them that much more dangerous, because opposing teams don't know what to expect.
The reason the Patriots offense was stymied last season was because they did not have players who could do many things, and therefore could not create mismatches. When Sony Michel was on the field the Pats ran the ball 67% of the time, the third highest rate in the NFL. Why is that? because Michel is not a great pass protection guy, meaning he can't do multiple things. The same is true for James White, but instead for the passing game.
In addition New England didn't have a single tight end who could block successfully, and also be a threat to catch the ball. Julian Edelman was their best wide receiver, but he is not at all a deep threat. They wanted N'Keal Harry to be that guy, but his injury really derailed his whole season.
What I am getting at is that the Patriots had absolutely no dual threat guys on their offense last season. They didn't need a dual threat quarterback for most of their dynasty because they had so many weapons, but they simply don't anymore. Insert Cam Newton though, and unlike Tom Brady, he can run the ball. So now when Michel or White are on the field, defenses have to worry about Newton as well.
The Patriots also drafted two tight ends in the third round of this past draft in Devin Asiasi out of UCLA, and Dalton Keene out of Virginia Tech. Asiasi will most likely be the one catching more passes, but he is an excellent blocker as well. Keene can catch passes, block, and will also replace the retired James Develin at fullback. You can't get any worse than the Patriots TE position last year, and these guys bring a lot of things to the table.
I expect N'Keal Harry to take a big step forward this season. Because of his injury, he was thrust into the offense halfway through the year, and just couldn't seem to fit in and find a rhythm. Tom Brady is also notorious for not looking at rookie wide receivers who haven't gained his trust. Harry should see a lot more targets in 2020.
Someone that is also forgotten about a lot is Mohamed Sanu. He didn't amaze last year, but Belichick still did choose him over Emanuel Sanders last season, and he should also play a bigger role in this offense. What he, and the rest of these wide receivers struggled with last year was separation. Why Tom Brady struggled was because guys just weren't getting open. That needs to change, or at least improve for the Pats to succeed in 2020.
They also signed Damiere Byrd from the Arizona Cardinals and Marqise Lee from the Jacksonville Jaguars, although both of those guys are huge question marks. They have potential to be sparks in this offense, but are both far from certain things.
You might think that because Brady is a pocket passer and has been Belichick's quarterback for his whole tenure in New England that the Pats would have had the same offense this whole time. That's is just not true. Belichick is constantly changing and evolving his offense, and will have to again for 2020. Look for him to mix three offenses specifically, being the Patriots offense from last year, the Panthers offense from 2018, and the Baltimore Ravens offense from last season.
Cam Newton is going into a far better situation in New England than the one he is coming from in Carolina. Belichick is not going to set Newton up to get hit nearly as much as he did in Carolina. He will also have an excellent offensive line in front of him, and I think the rest of this Patriots offense will improve as well from last year.
He wouldn't even still be available (and would not have signed for so little) were it not for Corona-virus. Because teams cannot bring him in for their own personal physical and workouts, it just make signing him more risky.
And oh is he motivated. He was released by the Panthers. They didn't believe in him anymore, and chose Teddy Bridgewater over him. He is now looking to make a statement. And, if anyone is going to be able to replace Tom Brady, it is a big personality like Newton. He will not at all be fazed or afraid of facing the challenge of replacing the G.O.A.T..
Since 2011, no quarterback has taken more hits than Newton. No doubt that affected his health, but why aren't we asking what he will do in an offense were he is constantly pounded? I don't expect him to be the 2015 version of himself, but I do believe that he has the potential of taking the Patriots back to the Super Bowl, especially because they have one of the league's best defenses. Before the signing, I was debating whether or not they would make the playoffs. Now, they are a Super Bowl contender.
The thing that makes this move such a success for the Patriots is that there is absolutely no risk. They are signing Newton for next to nothing. They are potentially getting a very good starter, but if that doesn't work out, it doesn't matter. I had the Patriots hovering around .500 before the move, but after it, they are right back as favorites of the AFC East.
As always, feel free to leave your opinion in the comments below!