It was supposed to be one of the games of the year.
Jimmy Garoppolo's return to Foxboro after being traded by the New England Patriots to the 49ers three years ago is scheduled for Week 7 of the 2020 NFL season, but legendary quarterback Tom Brady's decision to take his talents to
Tompa Tampa Bay took much of the juice out of this matchup.
Garoppolo vs. Jarrett Stidham (0 career NFL starts) didn't have nearly the same allure as a potential Brady-Jimmy G showdown.
But the Patriots brought some fire back to this midseason contest, as New England agreed to terms with former NFL MVP quarterback Cam Newton on a one-year contract, ESPN's Adam Schefter reported Sunday night.
Former NFL MVP Cam Newton has reached agreement on a one-year, incentive-laden deal with the New England Patriots, league sources tell @mortreport and me.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) June 28, 2020
Newton now will step into the mix to try to help replace former Patriots’ QB Tom Brady.
Newton confirmed the news Sunday night with this post on his Instagram Story.
Cam Newton confirms he's going to the Patriots on his IG story. pic.twitter.com/3kDOd1gDVd— Ali Thanawalla (@Ali_Thanawalla) June 29, 2020
Newton only played in two games last season as he recovered from a nagging shoulder injury that required surgery in January 2019. The Carolina Panthers granted Newton permission to seek a trade in mid-March, before releasing him just a week later.
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The quarterback is one of the league's most unique athletes, standing 6-foot-6 and weighing 245 pounds while being the NFL's greatest rushing threat at the position, that is until Lamar Jackson came around.
His physical style of play has led to a multitude of injuries over the years, and no one knows how he'll look after nearly a full year away from the game. He posted video of himself working out with Cleveland Browns wideout Odell Beckham Jr. a few weeks ago, and looked to be in pretty good shape.
The 49ers had one of the league's best defenses last season, but it did struggle at times with more mobile quarterbacks. Kyler Murray and the Arizona Cardinals hung 51 points on San Francisco in two games, albeit both wins for the Niners. Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens' dynamic offense didn't produce quite the same barrage of points but came away with a victory over the 49ers in Week 13. Jackson threw for just 105 yards but added 101 yards rushing to go along with two total touchdowns.
The Patriots infamously traded Garoppolo to San Francisco midseason in 2017, as Brady wasn't ready to give up the throne in Foxboro. Fast forward three years, and New England didn't have anyone they really trusted in line to replace the signal-caller many consider to be the greatest QB of all time. Few believed that Stidham was going to be coach Bill Belichick's long-term replacement for Brady, and that now appears to be confirmed with the signing of Newton.
Belichick is hoping he can recapture the magic that Newton had when he brought home the NFL MVP in 2015, throwing for 3,837 yards and 35 touchdowns and adding 636 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns for a 15-1 Panthers team. As Schefter reported, Newton's age (31) typically is when NFL quarterbacks hit their prime.
All Garoppolo has done since leaving New England is win 79 percent of his starts for the 49ers and lead San Francisco to an appearance in Super Bowl LIV. A two-time champion as Brady's backup, Jimmy G now has the chance to come back and show Belichick, owner Robert Kraft and the rest of the organization just what they gave up on for a second-round draft pick back in 2017.
Garoppolo returning to Foxboro and playing in front of the raucous crowd (if fans end up being allowed into games) at Gillette Stadium will be the main storyline regardless, but if Newton comes back at an elite level and the Patriots are on a roll going into Week 7, this will be one of the marquee matchups of the 2020 season.
Start marking your calendars now.