Just when I was about to finish the offseason grades for the last division (NFC West), the Patriots went and signed Cam Newton on a one-year deal. Much of the deal is wrapped up in incentives that can reach up to $7.5 million. Whilst Newton is by far and away the best QB that was left on the market, this was not a deal that I expected.
When Brady left for Tampa Bay (I refuse to give in to “Tompa Bay”), I was fully behind the idea that Jarrett Stidham would be the starter in 2020. There was never a point to signing Dalton as the difference in class would be outweighed by the price of signing, which would dent the ridiculously deep rotation that Belichick is creating for that defence. Drafting a QB was pretty much out of the question, Tua and Burrow would never fall to the Patriots range, and any other QB would be a project or just as good as Stidham, therefore making drafting a QB a suspect proposition. So that left Newton as the only possible signing (they did sign Brian Hoyer but he is essentially a QB coach to Stidham).
However, I never expected the signing to happen and not just because of the Patriot’s current cap situation. A few months ago, ex-Raven scout Daniel Jeremiah unearthed Bill Belichick’s scouting instructions to his scouts when he was coaching the Cleveland Browns. Here, Belichick lays out what he is looking for in a QB1. His instructions include “Accurate rather than a guy with a cannon” and “emphasis on our game will be on decision, timing, accuracy.” These are all things that describe the play of one Tom Brady. No need for mobility and moving methodically down the field without mistakes. This is also why I assumed that Stidham was a good bet to have the chance to be the next Patriots QB (he still does but not as large of a chance) as he showed in his preseason games that he can lead an offense based on these concepts. To add to this, he had surprising mobility which can lea d to him making a few more plays with his feat than Brady, it wouldn’t take Stidham almost 20 years to get 1000yds rushing. It is also why I never expected Newton signed.
Newton was never an accurate QB, and his lack of competency with timing patterns held the Panthers offense back. He would often miss receivers or at the very least not consistently put the ball in a place where only the receiver can it, often using his powerful arm to bullet the football to the receiver before the defender can react. This attitude has led to 108INTs throughout his career. This is also reflected in his completion percentage which is at 59.57%, 56th in league history (per pro football reference). This is a major drop off from the standard Patriots fans are used to with Brady at 63.8% (16th all time). Whilst it can be argued that Newton has not sterling receivers with Kelvin Benjamin being the top receiver for may years in Carolina but at some point, the QB must take responsibility. Therefore, it seems that Newton is the exact opposite of what the Patriots are looking for.
However, Newton was the 2015 league MVP on route to Superbowl 50 after a 15-1 season. He was the number 1 overall pick in the 2011 draft and has been stuck in a division with the ever-dangerous Saints and Falcons. He has also thrown for 182 TDs. His rushing is ridiculously effective for a QB, rushing for 4806 yds in his career at 5.1 yds/carry. His rocket arm can make throws that Brady never could. Belichick mentioned in his scouting instructions that “leadership” is one of his important qualities of a QB1. Whilst Newton’s leadership seem to be questioned often, many teammates speak out for quite the opposite viewpoint. They have confidence in Newton, a QB who can make an incredible play on any snap. To add to this, consistency may not be vital for Newton in the Pats offense. This is a team built on defence (really, really built on defence). It’s also built around the run game with Michel, White Burkhead, Harris and Bolden, and now Newton. Maybe Belichick is trying to move with the times as QBs become more mobile, creating an extra danger to the opposing defences. Belichick also added Byrd (from the Cardinals) and Jeff Thomas (UDFA), both can stretch the filed unlike the past WR groups in New England which will allow Newton to unleash his arm. Also, there is no way Edelman is dropping anything thrown his way, no matter how much velocity is on the throw.
Maybe Belichick has pulled a great manoeuvre or maybe Newton will be cut before the season starts and Stidham does take the reins. But, no matter what happens, this is an interesting signing. If Newton is healthy after missing 14 games last year with a foot ailment, then he is a quality QB which is why CBS Sports data analyst Stephen Oh projects the Patriots wins increases from 7.8 to 9.3 with the addition of Newton. Newton could be the spark on offense which propels the Patriots back into the playoffs after their long drought of 0 seasons.