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McGinley: Thoughts on the Patriots re-signing Cam Newton

| Wednesday, March 17, 2021

So, the Patriots signed Cam Newton … again.

Remember when that sentence was exciting? I believe my exact emotions were hesitation at first and then ultimately relief and excitement.

And then the 2020 season happened. It was great to see Brady (who had been my team’s quarterback for my entire life — literally) win another Super Bowl. But, it definitely stung to watch — or really, not watch — the Patriots sit this one out. I miss the synonymy of “Patriots” and “playoffs.”

Now, just under six months out from the start of next season, developments are unfolding for the Patriots left and right that have elicited new reactions from Pats fans everywhere, present company included.

 

Friday, Mar. 12 — Patriots re-sign Cam Newton.

Reaction: Immediate defeat. Better yet, that clip of Julian Edelman where he just rips his helmet off of his head, that was me.

This was the first bit of big news to come out of Foxboro. My instant reaction went something along the lines of “We can kiss this friggin’ season goodbye,” as warned by Massachusetts TikToker Dalton DeLima.

I mean, he probably isn’t wrong, at least not based on last season’s performance.

For the first time, excluding the 2019 season where he got injured, Newton had more interceptions than touchdowns, at 10 and eight, respectively. He threw the fewest completions he ever has at 242, again excluding 2019. He had an average year on the rushing front as well, at least by his personal standard with 592 yards on 137 carries.

Where he came in above average was in fumbles. Newton had six fumbles on the season on top of all the interceptions, most of which came during important possessions in dire games.

Four turnovers against the Chiefs, an interception against the Seahawks that kept the game close only to get stopped at the one-yard line on the final drive, six more interceptions throughout the season, you get the picture.

Friday left a lot of room for fear for what could happen next season and utter embarrassment.

Later on Friday, Mar. 12 — Cam Newton, rethought.

Reaction: Conditional trust.

Some of the hope I had for Cam Newton last year disappeared so quickly simply because he had such a young receiving team that had most recently been working with the greatest quarterback of all time and even then, they had problems.

It’s also important to note that it was clear Newton didn’t trust those receivers very well. They did not get enough time to work with him before the season started, and he, like Brady had, faltered because of that.

Still, he saw a 65.8 completion percentage, which just means he tried less to get shots off for that 242 number, not that they weren’t making it to their receivers.

Now that the growing pains are gone and hopefully, he is more comfortable in his New England signal-caller roll, the season could be much different.

It became evident on Sunday that the Patriots had also outlined a conditional trust in Cam as ESPN writer Mike Reiss broke down his contract. It looks like a back-up contract but positions him as most likely the starter. That is, unless they pull someone from the draft or convince someone else to get on board through free agency or a trade.

Newton will receive $5.1 million just for being on the roster and healthy, another $6.6 million just for starting all season. None of these things scream the Patriots have complete trust in Newton which also makes me hopeful for the potential of the draft.

Monday, Mar. 15 — Patriots sign Jonnu Smith, then Hunter Henry

Reaction: Relief.

While he’s no Gronk, it is nice to have a tight end back. The position has been one of the biggest weak spots on the New England offense. Smith has been on the Titans since his arrival to the NFL as a third-round draft pick in 2017. He has now joined the Pats for the next four years for $50 million with $31.25 million guaranteed.

His four years of experience will be welcomed especially as we wait to see what shakes out in the rest of the roster. It would be nice for N’Keal Harry and the younger guys to have someone to look up to.

Smith was followed by tight end Hunter Henry who committed to a three-year deal, one source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter. As the two best tight ends in the pool, they could become the third pair to find success under Belichick. The first two sets being Daniel Graham-Ben Watson and, Rob Gronkowski-Aaron Hernandez.

The pair should both be able to provide third-down options, in addition to the rest of the roster. This will make it easier for Newton to find success. If he can master the Brady-Gronk dump pass with one of these two, with the other waiting to switch it up, they’ll be unstoppable.

 

Since free agency began (and before it) – Patriots restock entire defense

Reaction: So much hope (and maybe a little more faith in the Newton decision).

Even before Newton was re-signed, the defense has been in the works. Cornerback Justin Bethel and defensive tackle Carl Davis both signed on to return like Newton and were followed by a whole slew of new teammates.

Adding defensive tackle Henry Anderson, defensive end Deatrich Wise Jr., defensive tackle Davon Godchaux, will scare off run-based offenses. As will adding linebacker Matthew Judon who has also has great pass-rushing ability. He and off-the-line ’backer Dont’a Hightower will be a force as two of the hardest-hitting linebackers in the league.

Safety Jalen Mills, at 26, will be a young addition to the highly skilled safeties roster. This already includes Super Bowl Champions Devin McCourty and Patrick Chung. Smith also has a high degree of flexibility as he was a cornerback before this. If anyone knows how to maximize flexibility like that, it should be Belichick.

With the defense in full swing, this season will — hopefully — prevent any moments like the end of the Seahawks game. If the Pats are on track to win, they should be able to pull it off with McCourty and Co. Then, new additions will fall into that nicely.

 

Originally, re-signing Cam Newton was scary. There was genuine disappointment that I would have to watch another losing-record season. But, as the Buccaneers have found, no matter who the quarterback is, weapons around him are always necessary. If Cam can step up to his weapons and make good use of them, great.  If he can’t, hopefully, the Pats already know that and will make a call in the next few weeks as to who should place ahead of them. But that’s another column for another day.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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