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Patriots Unfiltered Q&A: What does Cam Newton bring to New England?

AP Photo/Bill Sikes
AP Photo/Bill Sikes

Am I alone in being surprised and dismayed by the news that he is joining the Pats? I am struggling to see what he offers us in footballing terms and concerned about what damage a dilettante such as him might have in the locker room. And what message does this send to Stidham? – Robert Whitaker

There's a couple significant factors to take into account on why you shouldn't be surprised or dismayed. It's a one-year deal and he's coming to compete for the starting job. Earlier this offseason it seemed impossible that the team could work out a deal for Newton at starter's money. Plus, that starter's money would mean the full Cam Newton "show" would come with him.

Now, Cam is coming in with something to prove and the team has little risk. I think that will bring out the best in him, he's clearly motivated and for a player with his natural talent that could be a scary proposition for the rest of the league. It's also worth noting how former teammates have come out in support of him after he signed with the Patriots and that he was the Panthers Walter Payton Man of the Year nominee last season.

Newton is a world-class talent despite recent setbacks. In the mold of many Patriots reclamation projects, he's coming with an injury history. Sometimes they hit on those, sometimes they don't. After an excellent bounce-back start to the 2018 season, Newton hasn't been himself since then due to a shoulder injury that slowed him down and a foot injury that cost him nearly all of last season. At 31, the 2015 NFL MVP still has high-level football in him and enters an ideal situation.

The Patriots versatile backfield and young tight ends will give Josh McDaniels plenty to complement Newton's skillset with. He'll immediately bring a kind of athleticism never seen before at the quarterback position in Foxborough. A resurgent Newton could once again put New England back in contention but in a very different way on offense than we're used to seeing.

As for Stidham, this is the NFL, and the Patriots will make a move at any position if they truly believe it will make them better. Especially when it's a player as talented as Newton who is in his prime and coming at excellent value. There is still very much a quarterback competition in camp and I think Stidham should understand that – no matter who they brought in whether it was Andy Dalton or Tua or Jordan Love or now Newton – there's a level playing field in New England.

No matter who wins the job, the Patriots will be better for it in 2020. –Mike Dussault

It is hard to argue with the value the Patriots have acquired in signing Cam Newton to a one-year, incentive-laden deal. A lot of talk this offseason has centered around the lack of salary cap the team has to work with, and how the 2021 offseason will bring opportunities to bring in free agent talent.

What sort of long term deal could you see the Patriots extending or signing Cam Newton to given the financial flexibility of the 2021 offseason? Let's say for the sake of argument Cam's production will be similar to his 2016-2018 seasons: 3300 passing yards, 22 TDs + 5 Rushing TDs, 14 Ints, and a slightly above .500 win percentage. Would the Patriots be interested in paying him in the $25 million a year range? – Joshua King

In a perfect world this would be a good scenario to think about! If Newton leads the Patriots to the playoffs would the team be ready to give Newton a multi-year deal? There's a lot to consider. The Patriots are due to have a huge chunk of cap space next year, but that could shrink depending on what happens with this coming season. Pandemic complications aside, I think the team will want to play it as short and cheap with him as they can. I think they like having the flexibility without the big cap hit the quarterback position usually takes up.

Cam's injury history has to be taken into consideration as well, but if he stay healthy and wins a bunch of games I could see them considering a two-year deal with a bunch of incentives. The Franchise Tag would also be an option. But would they be willing to pay Cam that baseline $25 million-per-season that he'll likely be looking for?

The bigger question might be what Cam wants if he wins a bunch of games in New England. He will probably get bigger offers to leave if he does have a great season and then it comes down to how much he enjoyed winning with the Patriots versus how much he wants to secure another lucrative deal. It's hard to predict but I have trouble seeing the Pats giving him the richest deal. – Mike Dussault

Do you think the Patriots choice of not going for a WR in the draft was more a result of 1) them having faith in the WRs they have (believing Sanu will bounce back, Meyers making a leap and Harry proving them right taking him in the 1st), or 2) that they believe in and will try to involve the TEs more in the passing game? – TJ Sævareid

I think it's both one and two! Overall, I felt like the offensive focus this offseason was solidifying the interior of the offense. Paying good money to a second guard, targeting a fullback/h-back type in Vitale, drafting two tight ends who are willing to do some dirty work. Those kinds of players seem to me like a new quarterback's best friends and add some elements they were missing or lost last season.

Outside receivers are flashy and exciting but I think the Patriots chose to let their young players develop and give Sanu a chance to get healthy. Resource-wise the team invested a first-round pick last year and a second-round pick this year on the position and that's significant. At some point you have to give the players you've invested in a chance to succeed.

When you look at Cam Newton's best seasons it was largely due to having the offensive personnel the Patriots have. A multi-pronged ground attack and a reliable short passing game, usually led by the tight end or receiving back. Big receivers like N'Keal Harry have also performed well with Newton. –Mike Dussault

My question is on Chung's contract extension. I know the Pats were in a serious cap situation and couldn't even sign their top pick until they made a move, but why extend Chung for 2 more years? Chung is now under contract up to and including his age 36 season. He can't seriously be expected to be playing at an acceptable level then so this looks like the Pats are setting themselves up to take a dead money hit down the road. Was there no other option, no player they could redo the contract of who would actually be on the team through the new deal? – Len Carmody

According to Sportrac.com, Chung's dead money hits would be: 2021 - $4.33 million, 2022 - $2 million, 2023 - $1 million. So if he makes in through next season it's pretty manageable but this just speaks to how much Bill Belichick loves Patrick Chung and how valuable Chung is to the defense.

This season the team's top free agency signing and top draft pick were both players in the mold of Chung – linebacker/safety hybrids who can do it all on defense. As much as that should signal Chung's eventual departure, you can never have too many of these kinds of players in today's NFL. –Mike Dussault

The Pats have had as good a success with UDFA's as any team in the league. They always seem find players. Many think this year's haul maybe the best group they've ever signed. I think Nick Coe and Jeff Thomas head this list, but what do you think of this group are you as high on them as others seem to be? – Anthony Bennett

The undrafted group always seem to produce at least one roster player and this year should be no exception. The team signed four receivers, a hard-charging undersized running back and a sprinkling at each level of the defense. Defensive end Bill Murray and his 10 blocked kicks is another player that I think could make a roster push, while running back J.J. Taylor is sure to be the talk of August.

Overall, the Patriots were pretty strategic with their undrafted group this year, signing just one cornerback in a nod to their good team depth at the position and avoiding the offensive line entirely. The receivers and defensive linemen all have golden opportunities. –Mike Dussault

Post-June 1 trading away Marcus Cannon and Mohamed Sanu will cost only 2.6 million in dead money, while generating cap savings of around 13.55 million per overthecap.com. Sanu could be a target for another WR-needy team, like, say, Packers. Cannon could be a target for the teams, led by ex-Pats coaches. Yet, OL and WR are among the most depleted rooms on the team. But let's think about it for a while. What could the Pats do with such amount of extra money, especially when thinking long term? –Rosen Rashkov

From a team-building perspective I'd invest in the defensive front, either a versatile first or second level defender. Offensive line could be a need as well if none of the young guys stand out. That includes Froholdt, Cajuste, Onwenu and Herron, along with Eluemanor who seems to have an inside track as an interior backup. If there's a long-term need on this roster it has to be game-changers in the front seven, especially as Dont'a Hightower enters the last year of his deal. Still, there will be plenty of chances for young players like Josh Uche, Anfernee Jennings and Chase Winovich to emerge this season.

As for the chances of moving Cannon and Sanu, there isn't much proven depth behind them, especially for Cannon as the Pats are razor-thin at tackle already. Sanu is coming off an offseason ankle surgery as well, a situation that would complicate any attempt to move him. It's hard to say you'd be selling high on either player rather than just dumping them and accepting a dropoff at the position. Someone like Marqise Lee could make Sanu expendable with a great camp. –Mike Dussault

The news of signing Cam Newton was a big deal, and as I understand it the contract was team-friendly with a low base plus incentives to $7 million. But what nobody seems to be reporting (at least to date) is how they are coming up with the money. Everything I read seemed to indicate the Patriots were hard against the Cap at just over $600k. I know they were trying to restructure Thuney's contract, but haven't heard a peep about how they are going to pay Newton and stay under the cap? – Cliff Maurand

I think we're all wondering the same thing because until the Patriots announce the move it's hard to say how they're making it work. It would seem on the surface that a corresponding move would have to be made, but I think this generally speaks to how the team can manipulate the cap when they need to. The bill comes due at some point, as they're dealing with some significant dead money hits this season, but a one-year, incentive-laden deal seems a lot easier to manage without necessitating a creative spread of the cap hit. We'll just have to wait and see when the real announcement comes and whether there's a corresponding extension or cut that goes with it, but I'd expect any additional move to be relatively minor. –Mike Dussault

Top-5 things that upset me most about Patriots today: 1. Lowest cap space in the league 2. Roster which is pretty average in terms of talent. 3. Five QB's and none feel like a franchise QB. 4. With a trade (4th round pick) and a loss of 3d round pick, both Brady and Gronk were essentially given away. 5. Brady is prepping during the constrained COVID season with much more determination that he did in the past two years with the Pats. – Larry Goff

Thanks Larry, here are some thoughts on each of these things that are upsetting you. First, there will be some moves coming with the cap space, they'll need more to deal with the comings and goings of the regular season. Still, it didn't stop them from adding a significant player so I wouldn't worry too much about their cap space.

Second, like any season, this roster has its strengths and weaknesses. The secondary sure isn't pretty average nor should the offensive line or backfield be considered average. And don't forget about special teams, which is always a spot no one considers yet the Pats consistently tip games in their favor with outstanding play in this phase. But is the team unproven and/or lackluster at the critical positions of quarterback, wide receiver and pass rusher? Yes, and those positions will determine where the Patriots fall from division contender to Super Bowl contender. All are unproven but well-stocked with interesting competition and those will be the most interesting areas of camp.

Third, if healthy Cam Newton's definitely a franchise QB and there's no question he makes this position group better. But it was inevitable the Brady transition would feature a lot of unknowns and this is just the first offseason of it. No matter how Newton works out, the Patriots should continue to find a long-term answer at the most critical position.

Fourth, the team didn't have too much of a choice on Brady or Gronk. Brady's departure felt multiple seasons in the making while Gronk retired and was not going to play in New England again. Getting a fourth-rounder for Gronk was an unexpected boost to their draft capital this season, while the team can expect a third-round comp pick for Brady, so it's not like the team got nothing for them.

Fifth, while there's no question Brady is entering a new situation and has to get up to speed on a different offense than he's been in, it's understandable that his maniacal offseason workouts that go against the advice of the NFLPA are a little disheartening for Patriots fans after he pulled back on his offseason work in recent years. It's fair to wonder if last year we had been seeing these kind of workouts with the Pats offensive players if they might've been in a better position last year. But would a handful of private workouts really have taken new players like N'Keal Harry and Jakobi Meyers to another level last season? I'm not sure it would've made much difference. –Mike Dussault

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