For better or for worse, the New England Patriots have made a move at the quarterback position for 2021.
As first reported by Jim McBride of the Boston Globe, the Patriots will be retaining the services of quarterback Cam Newton on a one-year contract.
2021 will be Newton’s second season in New England. He originally joined the Patriots in late June of 2020, after signing an incentive laden contract, also for a single season. Despite a steep learning curve, and an abbreviated training camp, Newton was named the starting quarterback, beating out incumbents Jarrett Stidham and Brian Hoyer in training camp.
Newton struggled during his first year in New England. Statistically, he was one of the least efficient passers in the NFL. Newton completed 242 of 368 pass attempts, and compiled a passer rating of 65.8 percent. He totaled 2,657 yards through the air while throwing just 8 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. Newton was far more productive as a runner, carrying the ball 127 times for 602 yards as well as 12 touchdowns. Still, he struggled to develop a consistent chemistry with his supporting cast, as the Patriots missed the playoffs for the first time since 2008, finishing with a record of 7-9.
While initial reports had the Patriots and Newton agreeing on a deal “close to $14 million” (as reported by ESPN’s Adam Schefter), the contract is not expected to be a burden on New England’s salary cap. ESPN’s Mike Reiss further clarified the contract details, advising that $6 million of the deal is slated to be tied to individual honors, as well as New England’s postseason success. Given that all of those would be classified as not likely to be earned and thus not counted against the Patriots’ salary cap at this point, Newton’s cap hit will likely not exceed $8 million.
It should be noted that the Pats apparently did explore other quarterback avenues, as well. As reported by CLNS’ Media, New England did contact both the San Francisco 49ers and Las Vegas Raiders to inquire on the availability of quarterbacks Jimmy Garoppolo (SF) and Derek Carr (LV.) They were told neither quarterback was currently on the trade block. As such, the Patriots are still expected to pursue additional prospects at the quarterback position, most notably during the 2021 NFL Draft.
To say that Newton may be eager to put 2020 in his rearview mirror may be an understatement. Despite starting 15 of New England’s 16 games during the 2020 season, he did miss some practice time (and one game) in October after testing positive for COVID-19. In 2021, Newton will attempt to put his Foxboro growing pains behind him, as he looks to anchor the bridge to the Pats future at the position. Despite his struggles, Newton’s experience in the Pats system, combined with the wealth of respect he enjoys among his teammates and coaches makes him a solid choice to call signals in New England for 2021.
-Mike D’Abate is a Managing Editor and Columnist for Full Press Coverage. He covers the New England Patriots and provides NFL editorial content. He is also the host of the Locked On Patriots podcast. Follow him on Twitter @mdabateFPC