Leave it to Bill Belichick to ruin an offseason by giving Cam Newton a deal with the New England Patriots. After making everyone believe that the six-time Super Bowl champions would be starting fresh with Jarrett Stidham, the Patriots had us duped.
After months of speculation, Newton is now a Patriot. Perhaps the MVP-momentum won’t return, but New England’s latest signing could be the move of the offseason.
If someone said last year that Tom Brady would be a Tampa Bay Buccaneer, fans would be laughing. Same goes for Newton ever leaving the Queen City after his dominant 2015 MVP campaign. And yet, amongst a crazy 2020 already, here we are.
Newton’s humility to take the league minimum certainly caused controversy – after all, how many former league MVPs would take that deal, right Richard Sherman? With a chance to prove the critics wrong and earn up to $7.5 million, the former Panthers quarterback will look to rewind the clock on his career.
As the old saying goes, if you can’t beat them, join them. This time, however, it’s New England hopping on board the Newton Express.
Why Cam Newton’s Patriots deal could be the best of the 2020 offseason
Past, present, and future Newton
Newton and Belichick have met twice with the Panthers going 2-0. The former first overall pick has 525 passing yards, 106 rushing yards, six passing touchdowns, and one interception for a passer rating of 128.2 and a 72% completion rating against the Patriots. Ask anyone in the locker room, and no one wants to take on to the Patriot pulverizer.
“I’m happy to not play against him. He always kills us,” Patriots safety Devin McCourty said via Karen Guregian of the Boston Herald.
McCourty’s statement speaks volumes, but the numbers back it up. Both in 2013 and 2017, Newton threw for over 200 yards – with the latter being his best game of the season. And to beat Belichick at his own game, you have to be a unique specimen.
271 total yards.
— NFL (@NFL) April 9, 2020
So, when Belichick dubs out a compliment, it’s best to listen to the reasoning.
“I think when you’re talking about mobile quarterbacks, guys that are tough to handle, tackle, can throw, run, make good decisions—I mean, I would put Newton at the top of the list,” Belichick said in a 2017 postgame. “Not saying the other guys aren’t a problem, because they are, but he’s public enemy no. 1.”
Despite playing injured the past three years, a team would still vie for the 31-year-old’s services.
The one storyline to watch for will be Newton’s health. Part of the reason Matt Rhule was so willing to move on from Superman is perhaps the game has become his kryptonite. Newton missed 17 games in four seasons while going 0-8 to close out his Carolina career.
However, the talent for the 6-foot-5, 245-pound signal-caller has never wavered. The question will be if, like in the comics, this new-found element can return him to superhuman strength.
“I think [coach] Bill [Belichick] always says the goal for any good team is to have as many good players as possible,” Patriots cornerback Jason McCourty said on the “Double Coverage” podcast. “Cam Newton is a former MVP of this league, played in the Super Bowl — that caliber of a player — so I think the better players we have in our locker room, the better we’re going to be able to perform as a team.”
If health isn’t a factor, perhaps Belichick would have to cough up the money to Marcus Mariota or Andy Dalton earlier this year. Instead, there’s no telling what the once-unstoppable quarterback will be. That alone also plays in New England’s favor as a whole.
Farewell Carolina, Hello New England | NEW VLOG OUT NOW on my @YouTube Channel or click the link below for full video | I explain how I feel for my FANS #1ØVĒ🤟🏾https://t.co/XzxUeBkSWw pic.twitter.com/xG0leVCaCh
— Cameron 1 Newton (@CameronNewton) June 30, 2020
Since his Heisman-winning days at Auburn, Newton has changed the way teams prep for quarterbacks. Ideal size for bulldozing defenders, a cannon arm to ignite a secondary and brute strength to put the team on his back, Newton’s defined the dual-threat qualifications while setting rookie records and taking annual trips to the Pro Bowl.
An average Newton is better than no Newton on a roster, and New England could prove that before the season’s end.
Finding Newton’s fit
Like any team, flaws will be noted heading into the season. Despite an upgrade on the offensive line for protection, Newton will have to drink from the TB12 magic cauldron for success with New England’s receiving corps.
Perhaps the worst supporting cast in football, a non-Brady Julian Edelman, will serve as his top target. Hopefully, Mohamed Sanu can regain some confidence while second-year selection N’Keal Harry can improve. In Carolina, Newton relied on a security blanket with Greg Olsen. New England has Matt LaCosse as the only tight end with snaps.
An upgrade on the offensive line should do wonders in keeping the injured-ridden quarterback upright. In his last two healthy seasons, the Panthers offensive allowed at least 32 sacks per season. In the same span, New England allowed 35 and 21, meeting in the middle with 28 last season. Should Newton had remained in Carolina, he’d be behind the second-worst unit from last year with little upgrades.
Bill Belichick has always placed a premium on mental/physical toughness. It’s a vital component of his evals.
In a 2018 loss at Atlanta, in which he led his team in rushing while passing for 335y, Cam Newton was nearly concussed by a Falcon.
Cam’s response? Finish the drive. pic.twitter.com/bBiKUcztUC
— John Ellis (@OnePantherPlace) July 1, 2020
The biggest thing of all for New England is instead of prepping for a dual-threat quarterback, they’ll be implementing one in their offense. Newton’s ability to pick up yards in the open field will allow drives to continue. That keeps the clock running, which puts pressure on the defense and eventually gives the quarterback a chance to go for the long shot downfield.
With injuries also piling up, expect Newton to transition into a middle-tier passer instead of heaving up the long ball. Each season since 2015 he has shown a diminish in arm strength when going deep. If any coach understands keeping the short game alive, it’s Belichick and Josh McDaniels.
Can Cam contend?
If anyone can make magic out of molehills, Belichick is the man. In 2008, Matt Cassel started nearly an entire season and put up over 3,500 passing yards to go along with 21 touchdowns. Randy Moss was coming off his second sub-1,000 yard season with Oakland before joining the squad. He’d set a touchdown record his first year while tacking on another 50 scores to his resume.
Anyone can work under Belichick if given a chance. Throw in the ever-changing play designs by McDaniels; even Newton should find success. A more open approach with the ability to run more options and QB keepers, the Patriots offense will only expand to run plays up the middle with a sprinkle of deep shots downfield.
Newton’s deal won’t be a signed, sealed, delivered postseason appearance, but it will keep them in contention. When the news broke, fans of the Bills, Dolphins, and Jets must have had a “seriously Bill?” moment, knowing the ruler of the AFC East struck gold once more. And with a healthy No. 1 lining up in the backfield, that could be an easy six wins on New England’s way to the postseason.
All will be based on Newton’s health, but the Patriots are set to stick around. Sure, Kansas City has Patrick Mahomes, while Baltimore will light it up with Lamar Jackson. Newton can do a little of both and give the two heavy-hitters a run for their money.
Belichick will go down in history as one of the greatest coaches of all-time. He also should be considered an all-time scout for the work behind closed doors.
There are 32 starters under center – only one remains undefeated with multiple wins against Belichick’s Patriots.
His name? Cameron Jerrell Newton.