Former NFL MVP Cam Newton has signed a one-year, incentive-based deal with the New England Patriots. Ever since the news broke, all I have read and heard from the experts is that the Patriots are now the third-best team in the AFC and this move was phenomenal. As a long-time and die-hard Patriots fan, I disagree with the hype. As much as I would love Newton to continue the Patriots’ run of glory, I don’t think it will happen and I think this move could jeopardize the future rebuild.
First, let us look at Newton himself. In January 2016, Newton was on top of the world. He led the Carolina Panthers to Super Bowl 50. He carried a superman persona and was becoming the new face of the NFL. However, in Super Bowl 50, Newton was bullied by the ferocious pass rush of the Denver Broncos and lost 24-10. Not only did he lose bad, but his reputation was shattered after the game. On replay, one can clearly see Newton giving up on a fumble late in the game when the outcome was still in doubt. Also, his postgame press conference made him appear to be a sore loser.
Since this game, Newton has not been the same quarterback we saw terrorizing the NFC in 2015. In 2015, he threw 35 touchdown passes, 10 interceptions with 636 yards and 10 touchdowns on the ground. In the three seasons he played at least 14 games in since his MVP season, he has not thrown more than 25 touchdown passes or thrown less than 13 interceptions. While he rushed for 754 yards in 2017, he has only rushed for six touchdowns or less in each of the three seasons. Last season, Newton dealt with major injuries. Coming into the season, Newton had shoulder surgery on his throwing shoulder, which hampered his play in 2018. Then, he injured his foot after two games, causing him to miss the rest of the season. In the two games he played against the Los Angeles Rams and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Newton threw for 572 yards but no touchdowns and completed only 56% of his passes.
Newton’s productivity has gone down since his MVP season and he has dealt with significant injuries. It makes perfect sense why he was only able to sign in late June on a veteran-minimum contract. As for the Patriots signing him, I do not like the move.
The Patriots are in an obvious decline. Last season, legendary quarterback Tom Brady struggled with a receiving corp with an inability to get open along with many injuries. The Patriots finished 15th in total offense, seventh in points per game, and eighth in passing offense. The Patriots would get eliminated in the wild card round of the 2019 NFL Playoffs by the Tennessee Titans 20-13. In the first half of the season, the Patriots averaged 31.25 points per game while in the second half, it dropped to 18.75.
The Patriots, this offseason, did little to improve their offense. They drafted solid tight end prospects, yes, but in free agency, they added Marquise Lee and Damiere Byrd to the roster, receivers that are average options at best. Their offense lacks playmakers; one factor causing Brady to leave for Tampa Bay in March.
The argument can be made that Newton can work well with offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels and create a dynamic offense with his mobility. After all, in Newton’s MVP season, the Panthers’ receiving corp certainly wasn’t elite. Since Newton has not played since September of 2019, he will be fresh and can play somewhat like his best self. Lastly, it is only a minimum one-year contract, so it is a low-risk move.
However, I don’t like this move in terms of the franchise going forward. The Patriots are now without Brady. With the rising Buffalo Bills, the dominant Kansas City Chiefs, and Baltimore Ravens here to stay, the Patriots need to rebuild. Jarrett Stidham was supposed to be the starter as the Patriots attempt to start over. But now, it is possible he may not get the chance to see if he is the long-term solution for the team.
Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence and Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields are two legit prospects in the 2021 draft. The Patriots could have been patient by landing one of those two amazing talents. However, with Newton, the Patriots appear to be trying to win now, which most likely will not happen. Newton could lead them to a 6-10 record, but what would that accomplish? Newton is 31-years old and coming off two major injuries. It is hard to tell how successful he will be. Let’s say Newton will be fantastic and gets a new contract. He is still heading past his prime years and with his playstyle, any success may not last long and the Patriots will have to start over again.
I hope Newton proves me wrong and has a fantastic tenure with the Patriots. However, I don’t see how this will work long term and I wish the team stayed on the trajectory they had set for themselves this offseason. If this season plays as scheduled, it will be very interesting to see how Newton does with the Patriots as he will be the first quarterback to start in the post-Brady era. I will be optimistic, but as a fan and media member, I don’t like this move.