The Good, Bad, and Ugly of a Potential Newton Signing in New Englandby Jordan Leandre April 29, 2020 1 comment
According to PointsBet, the Patriots have skyrocketed as the odds-on favorite to land former MVP quarterback Cam Newton (-190).
It’s been a major fall from grace for the 2015 MVP as injuries have hindered his athletic ability. However, the potential of a career resurrection could and should be enough for an NFL team to take a chance on him.
For New England, however, they have four quarterbacks on the depth chart as of Tuesday afternoon, but to many, they still haven’t addressed the loss of Tom Brady.
So does Cam Newton make sense? We take a look at the good, the bad, and the ugly of this potential acquisition.
As the NFL game continues to evolve, quarterbacks who can extend plays with their legs have a significant advantage. Look no further than Patrick Mahomes, Russell Wilson, and Lamar Jackson as recent examples of this notion.
Newton is older than each of those three, having already hit the benchmark age of 30, which is where many elite runners lose a bit of explosiveness. However, he still poses a new dynamic that opposing defenses haven’t been accustomed to facing in a Bill Belichick- and Josh McDaniels-led offense.
On top of that, the last we saw of a healthy Cam Newton was in 2018, when he posted a career-high 67.9 percent completion rate and his second-best passer-rating (94.2). Yes, he had the benefit of the most lethal running back in football in his backfield, but getting a guy like James White and Rex Burkhead to check down to could do wonders for his stats––and even his confidence as he progresses deeper down the field.
Lastly, he’s going to come relatively cheap, which does wonders for New England’s current cap space situation of just over $1.5 million. It’s nearly impossible to hate a one-year, prove-it contract, which is exactly what Cam Newton would be getting––much like Jameis Winston did in New Orleans.
As mentioned before, the last we saw of healthy Cam Newton was 2018. Even then, he still missed two games at the end of the season. That decline in health trickled into 2019, where he only participated in two games.
The two games saw immense struggles both in terms of results as well as just how he looked throwing the football. The latter of the two was on full display even in training camp, which was our first look at watching Newton throw post-arthroscopic shoulder surgery.
You could also see in the regular season that Newton appeared to put extra strain behind each of his throws just to get it to its intended target. As a result, he struggled to lead receivers, or even reach them at times.
He also looked nervous in the pocket most of the time, often being unable to get his feet set.
For starters, since winning MVP in 2015, Newton has gotten a bit turnover-prone through the air. It’s not quite to the extent of Jameis Winston’s 30/30 season in 2019, but Newton has thrown 65 touchdowns and 44 interceptions in his past 47 games.
In fact, he’s only had 19 clean games over that same stretch and has thrown three or more interceptions six times. The Patriots’ offense is predicated on taking care of the football, which Newton has continued to struggle with since the Super Bowl against Denver.
On top of that, some say Newton’s struggles throwing the ball is largely due to confidence issues.
It’s understandable with an offensive line that ranked in the bottom half of football (per Pro Football Focus) last season. However, it wasn’t explicitly stated whether those issues were with himself or the talent around him. If it’s strictly with himself, that can bode other issues as well. What made Tom Brady and the Patriots dynasty as a whole so special was their mental toughness, and you could see the guys who simply couldn’t hold themselves to that standard of toughness (Chad Ochocinco, Brandon Lloyd, Reggie Wayne). Bringing in a quarterback and having to re-teach him how to be mentally tough is a major red flag, one that Belichick would likely rather avoid entirely.
It’s evident, however, that Newton is at his best when he evades the pocket. Unfortunately, he leaves himself exposed when that happens and his health history suggests that he should convert himself into more of a pocket passer.
Having to take a former Most Valuable Player and teach him how to play the game a different style from what made him successful is going to be challenging. Having to do so while also convincing his psyche that he can be successful at this level again makes it a chore. With a second-year, naive quarterback projected to take the reigns in 2020, Patriots brass will likely avoid Cam Newton altogether, rolling with Jarrett Stidham.