Well, now the Patriots will have an answer to free agents who ask, “Who’s your quarterback?”
Whether or not the answer “Cam Newton!” excites them enough to join up with the Patriots for 2021? We’ll see.
This decision certainly isn’t a stunner. Newton stated on the I Am Athlete podcast that he had no reservations at all about re-signing with the Patriots after his 2020 tour of duty.
And there’s been a creeping sense in the past week that the Patriots -- not seeing any appetizing free agent quarterbacks options emerging -- would find their way back to Newton. Belichick’s effusiveness about Newton throughout 2020 and his refusal (despite a couple of benchings) to lay blame for offensive ineffectiveness on Cam’s wonky right arm was a tell. So too was the belief in Foxboro that issues with the Patriots offense ran deeper than Newton.
The personnel at wide receiver and tight end that had Tom Brady at wit’s end in 2019 was -- the team realized -- not enough to make any quarterback look potent. Plus there was COVID. Which meant no offseason for Newton or the team’s young wideouts and tight ends to get fully up to speed. And Newton’s bout with COVID messed with the development during the season as well.
The Patriots had to take their lumps because they didn’t have the cap space to shop last year, Belichick plainly stated last September. Newton came in and -- while the throwing was not good -- actually added a dimension to the Patriots offense that mitigated the passing game deficiencies. While Newton threw eight touchdowns, 10 picks and a few dozen worm-murderers, he also ran 137 times for 592 yards and 12 touchdowns. He picked up 55 first downs with his legs. Brady wasn’t doing that.
Newton tied Damien Harris for the team lead in carries and was their second leading rusher. Harris ran for two touchdowns. Sony Michel, who carried 79 times for 449 yards, had one touchdown.
While Patriots fans were howling about Newton’s throwing, the Patriots were thanking God they had him around. Because if he hadn’t been there? Yeesh.
I figured Newton was an “In Case of Emergency Break Glass” option. Later in the offseason, after the team exhausted all other avenues for bringing aboard a quarterback who could put the paddles to the chest of their passing game, then they might turn to Cam.
No Jimmy, no Darnold, no Mitch and no Minshew? Then Cam. Apparently not. With free agency set to start next Wednesday, the Patriots realized they needed someone to point to when they made their pitch to wideouts, tight ends, etc.
By no means does Newton’s return mean the team is done at the position. The terms, as Albert Breer indicated, means the reported $14 million deal is incentive-laden. He’s still a low-cost option. It’s not even St. Patrick’s Day. There’s going to be a ton of movement in the coming weeks and months and the Patriots -- after last year’s 7-9 season -- are going to be aggressive.
Despite all the fanfare this move will create, this is really a signing similar to the Trent Brown deal earlier in the week. Cover your ass in advance. At least there’s an answer at the position who -- if things go really well -- will make you look smart. And if they don’t go well? What’s the harm?