2020 has been a strange year to say the least, with the NFL being no exception. Tom Brady’s decision to leave the Patriots back in March (with Rob Gronkowski joining him soon after) was surreal, and so was Cam Newton’s departure from Carolina, after 9 seasons with the Panthers. After being linked to the former MVP for over 3 months, the Patriots finally pulled the trigger on signing Newton, as they locked him up on a one year incentive-laden deal.
Here’s what the signing means for the different parties involved.
1. The Patriots
Losing the GOAT was always going to be a challenge for the Patriots, as it’s hard to replace 20 years of sustained excellence. Due to the fact that the Pats opted to pass on free agents such as Jameis Winston and Andy Dalton, many believed that the team was comfortable with the idea of moving forward with second year QB Jarrett Stidham, but certain outlets such as ESPN and Bleacher Report refused to allow the possibility of Cam Newton fade away, due to their constant discussions on why he would be a good fit for the team.
Signing Newton gives the Patriots a dynamic athlete at quarterback, which is a sharp contrast to their previous starter, and also puts them in a win-win situation. If Newton plays well and exceeds his minimum contract, the Patriots got a bargain at the game’s most important position, and if he performs poorly (or gets hurt), they can move on from him without any financial burdens. At the end of the day, this shouldn’t be viewed as an indictment against Stidham, as the Patriots would have been foolish to pass on a former MVP at such a cheap price. As several people in the league have mentioned, you can never have too much talent on your team.
2. Cam Newton
For better or worse, Cam Newton has been one of the most polarizing players in the NFL over the past 9 years, due to constant controversy surrounding his larger than life image and on-field demeanor. As someone who’s watched him with a neutral eye during this period, I’ve always felt like the negativity associated with him was unfair, as he has never done anything to indicate that he’s a bad locker room presence or an unmanageable diva. In addition, it’s hard to look past his great work with the community in Charlotte, with a particular emphasis on the children in the area.
Getting back to Cam Newton the football player, he’s been fantastic when healthy, with his 2015 season standing out as pure dominance. Due to Newton’s enormous stature and status as a dual-threat QB, he’s accumulated a great deal of injuries over the years, with a devastating shoulder injury in 2018, and a Lisfranc (midfoot) injury in 2019. The latter injury forced him to sit out 14 of 16 games last season, and led to his release in Carolina. Newton’s injury history resulted in a lack of interest around the league, and led to him being willing to take such a steep discount to play for Bill Belichick and the Patriots.
Cam Newton has a great chance to reestablish his value in the league, with a strong 2020 season giving him the opportunity to cash-in prior to 2021.
The potential success of this signing is contingent on Newton’s health, as a healthy Newton should run away with any sort of QB competition in training camp. If he’s able to learn the team’s playbook and return to his 2018 form, the Patriots should be a force to be reckoned with in the AFC. Personally, I’m interested to see how the offense will adapt with Newton at the helm, as Bill Belichick and Josh McDaniels love to be malleable, and having a lethal option at QB would give them an opportunity to overhaul the offensive game plan if they choose to do so.