Is a new quarterback the Patriots’ next shocking move in NFL free agency?
Before the Patriots spent over $200 million on free agents, they brought back Cam Newton on a one-year, $14 million deal. That head-turning move on Friday was quickly overshadowed by the wave of imminent signings that were reported Monday and Tuesday.
Notably, the Patriots added significant offensive weapons with tight ends Jonnu Smith and Hunter Henry and receiver Nelson Agholor.
The Patriots’ agreement with Newton, 31, is heavily incentive-based, so there is still a chance they will still pursue a starting quarterback. However, Newton and Bill Belichick have a strong mutual respect for each other and there is a possibility that the coach sees the former MVP as capable enough to lead this offense.
There were times last season, though, where that surely did not seem the case. Newton’s accuracy and arm strength were both lacking last season; balls bouncing at the feet of receivers was a common scene.
Newton, though, told reporters after the season that he did not plan on being a backup quarterback.
“For me, when I look at the whole situation, if you’re asking me if I want to be a backup? Hell no,” Newton said. “Because when I look at the other teams and I am looking at how players play and it’s been guys getting away with what I feel [is] murder for years because of subpar play.
“Do I have the right to say that with the year that I had this year? No. But, I am going to be honest and say it because that is what I do.”
Still, plenty of doubts exist.
The Patriots have not appeared on any list of Deshaun Watson’s preferred destinations, though that could be a moving target. The Athletic reported that New England, which has the 15th pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, has been scouting the top quarterbacks.
Belichick has previously been against trading up in the draft, though he has previously also been against the type of free-agency spending that the Patriots have done this offseason.
And this is a highly touted quarterback class with Trevor Lawrence, Justin Fields, Zach Wilson, Trey Lance and Mac Jones all expected to go in the first round.
Newton had brief moments with the Patriots where he looked like the player who led the Panthers to the Super Bowl, which came before he had two shoulder surgeries in two years. Newton also battled COVID-19, which forced him to miss a Week 4 loss to the Chiefs and admitted he felt “stagnant” long after his return to the field.
Newton, though, would be a risky gamble after the Patriots just spent $200 million, $81 million guaranteed, to remove the stench of a 7-9 season.