Cam Newton’s presence could put Jarrett Stidham on a Jimmy Garoppolo timetable

Cam Newton’s presence could put Jarrett Stidham on a Jimmy Garoppolo timetable

Jimmy Garoppolo was a second-round pick in 2014. He waited two full seasons before getting a chance to start for the Patriots in the 2016 opener.

He won that game on the road in Arizona and was playing lights out in the first 20 minutes of the next game against Miami before getting broken like a toy by Kiko Alonso.

The rest of the story is long, circuitous and ends with him being very rich and starting in a Super Bowl last February for another team entirely. Let’s not get into that here.

But let’s get into the arc of Garoppolo’s time with the Patriots because Jarrett Stidham – a fourth-round pick last year – suddenly finds himself in a spot similar to Garoppolo’s: competing with a former MVP and staring at the possibility of another year waiting his turn.

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Because we’ve spent the past two months since the draft believing the Patriots were riding with the Stidham-Brian Hoyer combo, the signing of Newton has been viewed by some as a vote of no-confidence in Stidham. In reality, this move has less to do with the Pats being cool on Stidham and more to do with putting a few chips on the very significant upside of Newton.

And that’s really not a bad thing. Not for Newton. Not for the Patriots. And not for Stidham.

If Cam Newton comes in and performs like he did when he was last healthy at the start of the 2018 season, there’s no shame for Stidham in getting beaten out by a bigger, stronger, faster, more experienced player.

Losing out to a former No. 1 overall pick who, in 2015, had one of the most dominant seasons a quarterback’s ever had? It’s not really a fair fight.  

And where does that leave Stidham? Same place Garoppolo was in his second season – watching a better and more seasoned player play.

Play it out a little more. If Newton comes in and performs as one of the top-10 quarterbacks in the league this season on his one-year deal, he’ll be back at the table as a free agent in 2021 expecting a deal that pays him at least the going rate. That would start at $25M per.

If the Patriots are committed to staying out of the high-priced quarterback business, they can push away from the table and then Stidham – with another year of learning – can be in the same spot Garoppolo was in 2016. Entering his third season and more than ready for his turn. He will then have two years left on his rookie deal to make his case.

Garoppolo, of course, was just temping for Brady in 2016. And Brady went on to win a Super Bowl in 2016 and have an MVP season in 2017, so there was no way for Garoppolo to dislodge him.  

Stidham will be in an actual competition this summer (theoretically) and – unless Newton stuns everyone, stays healthy and plays like Brady in 2016 and 2017 – Stidham will have a chance to win the job.

Signing Newton buys the Patriots time with Stidham. And because there’s been no offseason for Stidham to truly make the second-year leap that most players do, the time is probably going to benefit him the same way it benefited Garoppolo.

What if Stidham beats out Newton for the job? Or Newton gets hurt? Or asks for his release which, if he’s playing for short money and feels he’s going to wind up backing up Stidham, he may well do.

Then the Patriots are back where they were before Sunday night – with a young quarterback who’s going to be learning on the job and a veteran quarterback ready as the safety net.

As much as we all got our brains around the idea of Stidham as the starter if and when this season begins, if he’s watching when the opener comes around, it’s not necessarily a bad thing. It wasn’t for Jimmy G.

Patriots Talk Podcast: Training camp position battles to watch

Patriots Talk Podcast: Training camp position battles to watch

Finally, the New England Patriots are back on the field at Gillette Stadium.

The new-look Pats had their first practice of 2020 on Wednesday, which means training camp position battles are officially underway. The obvious position battle in camp will be at the quarterback position between Cam Newton and Jarrett Stidham, but there are many more intriguing battles to keep an eye on.

In a brand new Patriots Talk Podcast, Tom E. Curran and Phil Perry break down the positions where these battles will take place.

Patriots Talk Podcast - Training Camp Preview: Burning Questions. Bold Predictions | Listen & subscribe | Watch on YouTube

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Perry named the Patriots' three most notable position battles, starting with the QB position. While it's technically a battle between Newton and Stidham, some believe it's a foregone conclusion Newton will be the Week 1 starter.

"You have the quarterback spot with Cam vs. Stidham. Let's move past that, we've talked enough about that, we both think Cam is going to win the job. Not a real battle, per se," Perry said.

"Let's go back to the outside linebackers. This is a four-way cage match between Chase Winovich, Anfernee Jennings, Shilique Calhoun, and Brandon Copeland. My guy is going to be Anfernee Jennings, but I do think that's a battle. Whatever that opposite John Simon edge spot is called, somebody's got to fill it.

"Number three, let's talk special teams ... who is your returner? Is it Kyle Dugger, your first draft pick in this year's draft? Is it J.J. Taylor? Fun as hell to watch, would be fun as hell to watch in the kicking game. Or is it last year's guy, Gunner [Olszewski]? They don't want to give it to Julian Edelman, we know that, so one of those three guys I think will win it."

For Curran, it's a newly-added safety who will have his attention in camp.

"I'm going to head over to the secondary for the position battle that I'm interested to watch," Curran said. "I have a good feeling of who's going to shine there and it's my defensive dark horse for this camp and this season -- it's going to be Adrian Phillips at the safety spot holding off a young Kyle Dugger.

"I think Adrian Phillips is going to be an absolute eye-opener at the safety position ... Adrian Phillips is a talented player, he's closer to [Patrick] Chung than he is Devin McCourty. He's going to be a really good player for the Patriots this year. But I'm going to be real interested to see how Dugger competes ... he's an athletic unicorn."

Curran and Perry also discuss the burning questions surrounding the Patriots, why the Pats should explore using the triple option, bold predictions for the 2020 season, and much more.

Check out the latest episode of the Patriots Talk Podcast on the NBC Sports Boston Podcast Network or on YouTube.

Patriots' 2020 draft pick Dustin Woodard retires before rookie season

Patriots' 2020 draft pick Dustin Woodard retires before rookie season

One of the New England Patriots' 2020 draft picks has decided to retire before his rookie season began.

The team announced Thursday it has placed offensive lineman Dustin Woodard on the reserve/retired list.

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Woodard, who played college football at the University of Memphis, was selected by the Patriots in the seventh round (230th overall) of April's draft. The 22-year-old center/guard was one of three offensive linemen taken by the Patriots in the 2020 draft, along with guard Michael Onwenu (sixth round) and tackle Justin Herron (sixth round).

Why is Woodard retiring? ESPN's Mike Reiss reported additional details:

The Patriots signed center Tyler Gauthier on Wednesday in a move that adds some depth to the position following Woodard's retirement. Woodard had a chance to make the roster as the backup center behind starter David Andrews.