After months of speculation and oddsmakers insisting New England was the favorite to land him, Cam Newton is finally a Patriot. However, now a new question arises. What’s the plan?
It shouldn’t surprise anyone that Newton’s deal is only for one year, but what is the plan beyond that? Does New England still believe Jarrett Stidham is the long-term answer at quarterback? Has Bill Belichick already given up on Stidham and is he targeting someone in next year’s draft? Could the Patriots re-sign Newton in 2021?
Whatever the future holds, it appears the present is Newton’s. Even if the Patriots plan to hold a real competition for the starting job, their fanbase and the NFL world has made it clear: They want and believe Cam Newton to be the starting quarterback in New England.
Whether it’s for one season or multiple, Newton is now considered by most to be the Patriots starting quarterback. So, what is a realistic expectation for the Newton in 2020?
If you’re looking for the 2015 MVP version, you’re probably going to be disappointed. Not only was it almost a half-decade ago and before a career-altering injury, but it’s also a significant outlier when compared to Newton’s career averages. Newton’s career-high 35 passing touchdowns that season eclipses his second highest mark of 24 by a wide margin and his touchdown to interception ratio of 3.5 to 1 is a shocking statistic considering he’s never had a touchdown to interception ratio of 2 to 1 or better in any other season of his career. However, there is a saving grace for Newton. That number doesn’t include his rushing touchdowns.
Newton’s best trait has always been his mobility. He holds the NFL record for career rushing touchdowns by a quarterback which will be a welcome sight for a Patriots team that has struggled in the redzone last season. The Patriots ranked 26th in redzone scoring percentage last season. In 2018, Newton’s last season as a starter, Carolina ranked 13th. In 2015, Newton’s Panthers ranked 1st in the NFL in redzone scoring percentage. The Patriots never ranked 1st under Tom Brady.
The question is how mobile Newton will be after coming off a significant foot injury that specifically impacts running and cutting. The good news is Le’Veon Bell suffered the same injury in 2013 and returned as shifty as ever with the Steelers. No back in the NFL cuts quite like Bell, which should give Patriots fans hope that Newton’s game won’t be hindered by his Lisfranc injury. If Newton’s foot healed correctly, he should be back to his old self. He ran for a career-high 754 yards in 2017 and while his rushing total took a significant hit the following season, that could have more to do with a change at offensive coordinator than a deterioration in Newton’s athleticism. His yards per carry average of 4.8 in 2018 was identical to the number he posted in his 2015 MVP season.
Newton’s age shouldn’t be a factor at this point either. Other mobile quarterbacks have had success into their thirties. Michael Vick finished 2nd in MVP voting in 2010 at the age of 30 and ran for 589 yards the following season while leading the Eagles to a 7-6 record in his starts. Newton recently posted a video where he appears to be in phenomenal shape and could have a resurgence to prominence with the Patriots that’s similar to that of Michael Vick’s with Philadelphia.
Fans can also expect Newton to fit in seamlessly with their winning culture. He’s always been a winner. After carrying Auburn to a National Championship in college, Newton took over the 2-14 Carolina Panthers and led the team to the playoffs in four of his eight seasons as the starter, tied with the Saints for the most playoff appearances by any team in their division over than span. That includes a 15-1 season in which he led the Panthers to a Super Bowl appearance. Newton is one of only two quarterbacks to win 15 games in a single season. The other is Tom Brady.
At 31 years old coming off of foot surgery, Newton will be as motivated as ever to prove he’s still an elite NFL quarterback and he’ll also be receiving the best coaching of his career. His NFL future will be riding on a great season and a big contract could await him in free agency if he plays well enough. Expecting the 2015 version of Cam Newton in New England might be asking a little much, but motivation, coaching and spectacular raw talent could push Newton to a special season with the Patriots that culminates in serious contention for a Super Bowl.
Photo: (Austin Gaines – Panthers.com)