Cam Newton is getting a bit of a surprising second chance to be the Patriots’ starting quarterback. Newton, after struggling with his new team in New England in 2020, has been extended with a one-year, $14 million deal.
After the Patriots lowballed the former Panthers QB in signing him to a one-year, $1.1 million contract last June, Newton got a significant raise to keep him from entering NFL free agency in 2021.
Last season, Newton showed promise early as a dual threat for Bill Belichick and offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, despite the abbreviated, unique offseason. But that quickly changed when he landed on the COVID-19 list to begin October.
He ended up with shaky passing numbers all-around in 15 games: 2,657 yards, eight TDs, 10 INTs, 7.22 yards per attempt, 82.9 passer rating. But in averaging more than nine rushing attempts per game, Newton racked up 592 yards and 12 TDs.
The Patriots adjusted well to his style of play. Newton was hurt by a shaky offensive line, limited help in the receiving corps and an attempt to absorb a complex new offense in a short period.
Although Newton is making much more than a year ago, $14 million is still a bargain in relation to the QB market. The Patriots were close to $70 million under the salary cap for 2021 before the move and allotting about 20 percent of that to bring back Newton isn’t much.
The Patriots could have gone after a different free-agent flyer QB, such as Jameis Winston. They saw enough good things from Newton, however, to stick with a familiar option instead of scrambling for a new one.
New England officials are also uncertain to get their quarterback of choice with the No. 15 overall pick in the NFL Draft. Newton gives the Patriots flexibility, should North Dakota State’s Trey Lance or Alabama’s Mac Jones not be available then. The Patriots could also get a different offensive skill player there and consider Florida’s Kyle Trask in the second round at No. 46 overall.
Newton remains a low-risk, high-reward signing. If he can’t again live up to the expectations of Belichick and McDaniels, the Patriots can easily move on, either with their stashed high-drafted rookie for 2021 or diving into a first-rounder in 2022.
The Patriots were in need of a contingency plan regardless and from their perspective Newton made the most sense. At the same time, they’re not committed to a QB who turns 32 in May with a good chance that his ceiling as the 2015 NFL MVP is well behind him. The new contract suggests he is still viewed as a bridge QB, not a long-term solution.