Cam Newton instantly boosts the Patriots‘ chances of maintaining their two-decade long status as a legitimate AFC contender in 2020, but signing the former MVP will serve as an obstacle for New England to land Trevor Lawrence or Justin Fields in the 2021 draft.
No coach plays the long game better than Bill Belichick. And after a pair of decades of Tom Brady’s quarterbacking mastery with the Patriots, it wasn’t crazy to envision Belichick devising a plan to provide New England magnificent security at the game’s most vital position with a young, ultra-talented passer like Lawrence or Fields, even if the cost was one bad season.
New England not adding a quarterback of note in the draft or free agency — along with its public vote of confidence in second-year quarterback Jarrett Stidham leading up to Newton’s signing — led to speculation that Belichick truly believed Stidham was a future franchise passer.
But now, like Tiger King, though not too long ago, the Stidham hype feels like a distant memory.
We aren’t sure Newton was signed with any assurances about being handed the starting job, but in all likelihood, he’ll earn it, given Stidham’s panicky play under pressure and four passes of NFL regular-season experience.
Cam Newton has joined the Patriots and there’s a lot to go over. Will Brinson and the Pick Six Podcast Superfriends dive into everything about New England signing the ex-MVP; listen below and be sure to subscribe here for daily NFL goodness.
And, sure, Newton comes with uncertainty about his health at the age of 31, and its impact on his once immaculate skill set. But he’s better than Stidham today, and, heck, there’s probably more uncertainty with the young quarterback. In short, Newton is bound to help the Patriots win more games in 2020. If he wasn’t, Belichick probably wouldn’t have signed him after completely ignoring the quarterback position this offseason until this point.
All that means is even if Newton is 80% of what he once was, and New England leans on its run game and defense, he likely increases the Patriots’ regular-season win total floor to around seven or eight wins, which typically leaves a team drafting a few slots outside the top 10.
And given how tremendously touted Lawrence — and to a slightly lesser degree — Fields are, a move from, say, No. 15 overall to one of the first few selections in the draft would cost a king’s ransom and then some. The last time a nearly identical trade went down? In 2016, when the Eagles moved from No. 15 to No. 2 in a trade with the Browns to draft Carson Wentz. The cost? Two firsts, a second, third, and a fourth, and Cleveland shipped back a conditional fifth to Philadelphia. History says Belichick would scoff at the idea of sending away that much draft capital.
Do I think the Patriots were secretly planning to “tank” in 2020 with Stidham in the shotgun in hopes of landing Lawrence or Fields? No. I don’t think Belichick’s competitive fire would allow him to operate under that line of thinking for an entire season. However, being a coach fixated on the future would lend itself to being fascinated by the long-term benefits of a brutal year, a season not unreasonable to expect with Stidham as the starter.
In reality, I think Belichick wasn’t very confident in Stidham but was perfectly content waiting it out with Newton’s camp. And now he gets him on an incentive-laden, one-year, $ 7.5 million deal — chump change if Newton does indeed start. But for as much Newton helps the Patriots and raises their floor (and their ceiling), close to a full season of him at quarterback in New England probably takes the team out of the running for the top two remarkably skilled quarterback prospects in next year’s draft.