Manish Mehta

Manish Mehta: Cam Newton is third-best quarterback in AFC East

Manish Mehta: Cam Newton is third-best quarterback in AFC East

The New England Patriots' two-decade run of having the best quarterback in their division appeared to end when Tom Brady joined the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in March.

But on Sunday, the Patriots re-entered that conversation by agreeing to a deal with former NFL MVP Cam Newton.

Newton hasn't played at an MVP level over the last couple of years partly due to nagging shoulder and foot injuries. When healthy, though, the ex-Carolina Panther has proven to be one of the league's most productive signal-callers.

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That isn't enough to convince Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News that Newton is the top quarterback in the AFC East. From best to worst, Mehta originally ranked the division's QBs as Sam Darnold (New York Jets), Josh Allen (Buffalo Bills), Ryan Fitzpatrick (Miami Dolphins), and then Jarrett Stidham (Patriots).

Those rankings didn't change much with Newton presumably overtaking Stidham on the depth chart.

"The top of my rankings are going to stay the same," Mehta told Trenni Kusnierek and Gary Tanguay on Thursday night's Early Edition. "I still think Sam Darnold is the best quarterback in the AFC East followed by Josh Allen. I'm going to put Cam third and for purposes of this discussion, I'll put Tua [Tagovailoa] as the Dolphins quarterback. Obviously I think Ryan Fitzpatrick's the better player now, but I don't know how many games he'll actually start.

"So I'm going Darnold, Allen, Cam, followed by Tua."

Tanguay argued that if healthy, Newton is at the very least the clear-cut No. 2 over Allen.

"I just think it's a big 'if,'" Mehta responded. "What gives you any indication that Cam Newton is going to be the Cam Newton from two or three years ago? It's such a big unknown.

"Now, I will grant you that if we see the Cam Newton from a few years ago, that you can make a legitimate case that Cam Newton's the best quarterback in the division. I just think that's a big ask given what we've seen out of Newton these last couple of years."

It remains to be seen which version of Newton we'll see when training camp gets underway later this month. Either way, the Patriots don't have much to lose considering Newton's extremely team-friendly contract.

Mehta's evaluation of AFC East QBs only furthers the point that Newton will have plenty to prove in the coming months. If his recent social media posts are any indication, he's up to the challenge.

With Tom Brady gone, is the Patriots' reign in the AFC East over?

With Tom Brady gone, is the Patriots' reign in the AFC East over?

Editor’s note: In the coming weeks our Patriots Insiders will be speaking with beat writers from around the NFL to get an outside view on what the future holds for the Patriots. Today’s team: The New York Jets with Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News.

There's no doubt that the New England Patriots are going to look different without Tom Brady, but has their reign atop the AFC East come to an end?

Second-year quarterback Jarrett Stidham is set to take over as New England's starter in 2020 and plenty of prognosticators don't think he can lead the Patriots to another AFC East title. 

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Our Patriots insider Tom E. Curran and Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News discussed how things in the AFC East could shake out and their answers shouldn't surprise you. 

"If you look at this objectively, the Bills do have the best roster," Mehta told Curran. "I do have serious questions, as I'm sure you do, about Josh Allen. But the surrounding components, to me, are the best in the division, and that's why I think you have to give Buffalo the nod when you're talking about preseason favorites in this division."

Many have picked the Bills, who returned to the playoffs last season as a wild-card team, as the team to beat in the division, and it's not difficult to see why. While the Patriots went 12-4 last season, Buffalo was second at 10-6 and that just could be good enough to move to top the division in 2020. 

With Brady gone, the Bills' Allen is arguably the best QB in the AFC East. In two seasons with the Bills, Allen is 15-12 with 5,163 passing yards, 30 touchdowns and 21 interceptions while completing 56.3 percent of his passes. While that's not terrific, combining Allen with the likes of newly acquired Stefon Diggs from the Minnesota Vikings, Cole Beasley and the rest of the Bills offense makes Buffalo a strong contender.

Speaking of QBs, Mehta actually ranked them for Curran. His list:

  1. Sam Darnold - Jets
  2. Josh Allen - Bills
  3. Jarrett Stidham (only because he has one more year of experience than Tua Tagovailoa) - Patriots
  4. Tua Tagovailoa - Dolphins

It's certainly going to be interesting to see how things shake out. While it's quite a challenge for Stidham to prove himself after New England saw 20 years of dominance with Brady, the kid is, at least, getting a shot. 

The change at QB in New England — and lack of change at wide receiver and tight end — will threaten the Patriots' customary spot looking down at the rest of the division. Perhaps Stidham shocks the world and the Patriots defense rises up to successfully defend the division title.

Still, Brady moving on changes the landscape for what has for two decades usually been a foregone conclusion.

Quick Slants The Podcast: Mehta on why Gronk's done; Curran on end of the Pats' dynasty

Quick Slants The Podcast: Mehta on why Gronk's done; Curran on end of the Pats' dynasty

The New York Daily News' Manish Mehta on why Gronk is done and his days with Patriots are numbered; NBC Sports Boston Patriots Insider Tom E. Curran on the Pats Dynasty 2.0 coming to an end.

1:45 - Patriots are at the end of the second run of their dynasty. Tom E. Curran explains how the 2.0 version of the dynasty is starting to come to an end.

5:05 - What will this group look like when the Patriots have to rebuild?

6:40 - Is this situation what the Patriots and Tom Brady wanted and expected?

9:30 - Going forward, Patriots have some tough decisions to make on several players.

10:51 - Twitter feedback on Curran’s column about the Patriots dynasty 

13:10 - Manish Mehta from the New York Daily News joins Quick Slants the Podcast to discuss his column where he said it is all but over for Gronk and his days are numbered with New England.

The News' back page on Wednesday featured a not-so-kind image of Gronk being propped up by his coach and QB:

16:50 - Mehta on Gronk's injuries: "His body is toast"

19:15 - Mehta says that Gronk will not be playing on the Patriots next season.

21:05 - Where does Gronk rank as an all-time iconic NFL player?

23:55 - Which quarterback would the Patriots rather see on Sunday - Sam Darnold or Josh McCown?

26:00 - Mehta on if the Jets will fire Todd Bowles after the season.

29:31 - Any chance Josh McDaniels goes to the Jets?

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