It’s a combination that seems unlikely yet exciting in equal measure. Newton thrives in chaos. Belichick demands order. Newton lacks great fundamentals. Belichick loathes mistakes. Newton is charismatic. Belichick sucks the atmosphere from a party. Newton thrives on raw athleticism. Belichick exposes every mismatch. That last comparison dichotomy is what makes Newton’s arrival so enthralling.
While there are certainly reasons that Bill Belichick wouldn’t want Cam Newton under centre, there is a lot to like about their new partnership. In fact, it makes so much sense that you have to assume the only thing that delayed this deal was Newton’s recovery from injury. The Patriots got a steal, signing Newton for close to the veteran minimum, allowing them to sign him despite being low on cap space. However, the Pats do have $24M in dead money, $13.5M of that is Brady and $4.5M Antonio Brown, limiting the opportunity to develop the team around Newton.
Effectively the Patriots are paying $15M plus Newton’s cap number (assumed to be less than a million dollars based on the Pats current cap number) at QB for Newton, Stidham and Hoyer. That’s not bad.
The Patriots latest offensive evolution
We’ve seen the Patriots make several great offences over the last fifteen years. From Moss in 2007 to the two Tight End set to a run heavy team last year. However, at no point have we seen what Brady and Belichick can do with a mobile QB. Newton may not be quite as athletic as he once was but the ability to make plays on the ground with your QB is something they’ve never had. Brady running the ball wasn’t even a threat.
In fact, the one real reference point we have is a decade ago when McDaniels worked with Tim Tebow. While Newton is inaccurate, he is far better than Tebow ever was throwing the ball. It’s a shame really for Newton that he won’t have a full offseason for the Patriots to develop his fundamentals.
Who’s the long term option?
While the signing of Newton is a great one for 2020, it does raise questions for 2021 and beyond. Newton is signing on a cheap one year deal. However, I’m sure the Patriots will make room for him to sign longer term if he performs this season. However, the reason he was available, and so cheap, is that his body is breaking down and he isn’t the athletic specimen he once was.
There’s also question marks around Jarrett Stidham. The Patriots clearly see Newton as the better option and there is traditionally a pressure for QBs to at least start during their second year if they are anything more than a career backup. What’s more, with Newton’s chequered injury history, the team have backed their horse. That said, they have far from mortgaged their future on signing Newton. There’s also an option three, arguably the most likely one: is the Patriots’ long term QB not on the roster, or currently in college?
It’s an intriguing combination to see what McDaniels and Belichick can do with a running QB under centre. From that point of view, it is a shame that it will be a battered and bruised Newton, rather than the 2015 version or earlier. The rest of the AFC, and NFL in general will be hoping that is the case.
Ultimately, all 32 teams had a chance to sign Cam Newton, even as a backup. If the combination does prove successful, other front offices will only have themselves to blame.