The Patriots made a splash on Sunday night when they agreed to a one year contract with 2015 NFL MVP Cam Newton. Newton, who is 2-0 in his career against the Patriots, will battle Jarrett Stidham to take over the starting quarterback job that Tom Brady held since 2001. Having Newton impacts the Patriots on the field in 2020 as well as in the seasons beyond that.
Newton, who only played in two games in 2019 due to injury, brings a star presence to the Patriots QB room. If Newton is fully healthy, he will likely have the upper hand on the starting job over Stidham. This will allow the Patriots to have a proven veteran while giving Stidham another year to develop.
Newton, though five years removed from his 2015 MVP campaign, still can be a high quality starter at age 31. In the first ten games of 2018, which is the last extended stretch of fully healthy games he had, Newton threw for 2,443 yards, 20 touchdowns and six interceptions. He also rushed for 354 yards and four touchdowns. His ground game is an element the Patriots are not used to having, but he is a passer first and will fit right in with the Patriots offense while also adding an element that New England has not previously used. It’s unfair and unrealistic to expect him to be the equivalent to 2017 Tom Brady, but he can also give them as much if not more than 2019 Tom Brady.
Another element that works in the Patriots favor is that if he wins the job, Newton is one of the few QBs who will not be fazed by replacing the GOAT.
This also takes pressure off Stidham, who still very well could be the long-term successor to Tom Brady. If he beats out Newton for the starting job, it will be a great sign for his readiness and ability to succeed. If he doesn’t, it allows him to have another year and, hopefully in 2021, a real, full offseason to develop.
If Newton has a terrific season in 2020, it leaves the Patriots with two options. One is to sign Newton to a long-term extension and have him be the face of the new era in Foxborough. If the extension is too rich and Stidham is ready to take over, the Patriots can let Newton walk and get a third round comp pick for him. New England could also let him walk and try to draft a successor, but I view that as less likely than the other two scenarios. If Newton performs poorly, the Patriots can simply cut him with minimal financial loss.
The news of Newton’s signing in June likely means that the Patriots have updated medical information that shows his strong health. Losing Tom Brady is obviously a blow to the Patriots dynasty, but they have done a great job setting up a replacement, they have two potential long-term solutions, one veteran and one young player. Training camp will tell us which path the franchise is headed in 2020. Whichever one they choose, the Patriots will be able to have confidence that they can remain a top tier team for the foreseeable future.