So after I spent most of this offseason telling people they were idiots for thinking this would happen, and joining in the Jarrett Stidham hype train...The Patriots went out and casually signed Cam Newton on maybe the most ”can’t lose” contract in the history of the NFL. Having just 650K remaining in cap space after signing their latest draft class, they added the 2015 league MVP for just 550K guaranteed, with the potential of up to 6.45 million in incentives. At best case scenario, Newton shows the injuries weren’t something to be concerned about and plays like an MVP candidate for under 7 million dollars. Worst case scenario, Jarrett Stidham really shows he’s the guy by beating out someone of Newton’s talent level for the spot, and we have a remarkably talented backup quarterback getting paid the average for a back up offensive lineman.
Now of course one of the major reasons I didn’t think Cam Newton would fit here is the offensive scheme, obviously the offensive system you install for Newton’s skill set is different than the one they had previously for Tom Brady. Without there being a real offseason training program I didn’t think it was a good offseason to overhaul or transition your playbook. However I also accept that Bill Belichick and Josh McDaniels know more about what they can do than I do. Another concern I had is the Patriots receiving core still ranked last in separation last season and was one of the league leaders in drops.
As always when you’re a Patriots fan though there is reason for optimism. It comes with the territory of living through the Greatest Dynasty in the history of sports. Julian Edelman last year was targeted 153 times, pulling in 100 receptions for 1117 yards and six touchdowns. Which are pretty good numbers when you consider that if Edelman were any other receiver in the league he‘d likely have been on injured reserve by week 8 last season. Secondly the trade for Mohamed Sanu was plagued by the former Atlanta receiver injuring his ankle which undoubtedly slowed him up last year. The 10 grabs he had against Baltimore and his workout videos this offseason, including ones with Mr. Newton himself, give reason to believe we’ll have a better receiver this season. Third we come to last years first round draft pick N’Keal Harry, who again was plagued by injury, spending half the season on IR. While he showed playmaking capabilities, specifically against Kansas City, he clearly struggled to get on the same page with Tom Brady, as well as separation, which was his issue in college. Again, workout videos with noted receiver trainer The Footwork King show that he’s at least working on it. If the 6’4 220 pound receiver can get a better burst off the line land in his breaks he could have a much better sophomore season.
The Patriots also probably had the worst tight end Group in the league last year, which they upgraded with two third round selections in Devin AsiAsi and Dalton “Rambo” Keene. Bill Belichick is notoriously good at drafting tight ends early, and AsiAsi has enough athleticism that he can break tackles in the open field and likely have an immediate impact on play action seams. RPO plays with Newton at the helm will certainly give a guy like that a step on a linebacker in coverage and that’s also where Rambo Keene can make his impact. a Swiss Army Knife type of player, he can run routes, take hand offs and act as a lead blocker on designed QB runs. I’d expect to see him in the backfield with Newton often, Josh McDaniels having that kind of versatility will give defensive coordinators nightmares.
Next we come to the Patriots running back committee, which is actually maybe the deepest in the NFL with Sony Michel, James White, Rex Burkhead, Brandon Bolden and Damien Harris. James White and Cam Newton should be able to work good together. In 2018 Newton had his most statistically accurate year as a passer, completing just over 68 percent of his passes, 86 percent of those to Christian McCaffrey. I‘m not saying White is as good as C-Mac, but he’s a damn good receiving back and his shifty style of running can be a good change of pace from Newton’s downhill running style. Obviously all of the Patriots backs struggled to make an impact running the ball as they were plagued by injuries. But with David Andrews set time return, Joe Thuney franchise tagged and a presumably healthy Isiah Wynn at left tackle the Patriots offensive line should be much better this season. Of course Dante Scarnecchia, legendary offensive line coach did retire this offseason so we will have to see what kind of impact that has on play. Regardless, anything is better than starting Marshall Newhouse at left tackle.
Cam Newton might look healthy in his workout videos but we won’t know until he takes the field this year, or doesn’t. Either way at that price it won’t matter at all. I had the Patriots going 8-8/9-7 with Stidham at quarterback because of the defense, if Newton can play like his old self and potentially rejuvenate the offense, for barely any cap space, then the division still goes through Foxboro.