In a move that felt for weeks like the worst kept secret in the National Football League, the New England Patriots have solidified their quarterback position by signing free agent Cam Newton to a one-year deal.
According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter and Chris Mortensen, the contract is a highly incentivized one-year deal. NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport says the deal can reach as high as $7.5 million in 2020.
While the signing of Newton does not guarantee the starting quarterback spot, if the 31-year old former MVP is healthy coming off multiple leg and shoulder surgeries, it would make little to no sense to even bring him in.
How did Cam Newton end up with the Patriots?
Back on March 21, SI Gambling analyst Frankie Taddeo wrote about the betting market available for Cam Newton’s next landing spot. Sure enough, his call on the Patriots at odds of +340 turned out to be right on the money.
After the Panthers released Newton and the Patriots did not select a QB in the 2020 draft, the likelihood of Newton arriving in Foxboro became far more likely.
Nevertheless, it's remarkable that the rest of the league left Newton available for Patriots head coach Bill Belichick to pluck onto his roster at a moment's notice,
"The question this time, though, is how the hell the rest of the league let this happen. Newton is just 31 years old. He piloted offenses with mediocre talent to the height of the sport. He will instantly diversify a Patriots scheme that no one could stop for the better part of two decades whilst piloted by an immobile vitamin salesman."
His likely top competitor for the starting gig is Jarrett Stidham, a fourth-round pick in 2019 who, like Newton, also played at Auburn. He threw only four passes his rookie season, leaving fantasy owners perplexed that the Patriots would even remotely consider him as the Week 1 starter.
Additionally, Patriots head coach Bill Belichick has thought highly of Newton’s talent and skillset for years.
Newton has bested Belichick the two times they've faced off against each other. As SI NFL insider Albert Breer points out in his latest MMQB column, Cam has gone 2–0 vs New England, completing 72% of his passes for 525 yards, six touchdowns and just one interception.
Cam Newton Fantasy Impact:
Newton missed the final two games of the 2018 season with a shoulder injury that had likely been bothering him since Week 8 of the season. Despite fighting through pain, Newton was excellent from Weeks 1-12, throwing for 2,699 passing yards and 22 TDs, while rushing for 417 yards and four TDs.
Up until the final quarter of the season, Newton was actually the QB4 in fantasy behind only Patrick Mahomes (NFL MVP), Drew Brees, and Matt Ryan. His quarterback rating was 103.7, nearly 10 points higher than his career average of 94.2.
Newton went on to finish the 2018 season as the QB14 in fantasy, but with his impressive play from Weeks 1-12, he was looked at in fantasy circles as an ideal bounce-back candidate for 2019. It just never happened.
He played two games, threw for 572 yards with 0 TDs, and an interception; ending his stoic Panthers career with a thud. He later went on injured reserve with multiple operations on his right shoulder and left foot.
How does Newton Fit with the Patriots’ Offense?
Again, with the caveat that Newton is healthy, Newton has the chance to thrive in Josh McDaniels’ quick-decision, run-heavy offense.
The Patriots feature multiple running backs in Sony Michel, James White and Rex Burkhead, as well as an excellent slot receiver in Julian Edelman; who has seen an average of 154 targets in seasons where he’s played all 16 games. If Newton can regain his 2018 completion percentage (67.9%), by far the highest of his career, he should get in sync with Edelman rather quickly
New England also spent a first-round pick two seasons ago on receiver N’Keal Harry, who struggled to find any consistency in his rookie season. Even before the Patriots signed Newton, Harry was one of SI Fantasy analyst Matt De Lima’s late-round fliers heading into 2020.
One area both Tom Brady and Newton share is their ability to convert on quarterback sneaks. Back in October of 2019, Nora Princiotti of the Boston Globe discussed the Patriots’ affinity to sneak the ball at the highest rate in the NFL:
“Since 2015, (Brady) has rushed with 3 or fewer yards to go a total of 38 times, behind only Carolina’s Cam Newton (101 attempts) and the Chargers’ Tyrod Taylor (39) among quarterbacks. Brady has converted 84 percent of those attempts, to Newton’s 83 percent and Taylor’s 62 percent.”
SI Fantasy analyst Shawn Childs also adds his perspective on Newton landing in New England:
"Newton brings a new style to New England, but he does win games (68-55-1) with his best value coming in 2013 (12-4), 2015 (15-1), and 2017 (11-5). He's worth a flier as a backup fantasy QB as 4,500 combined yards and 30 TDs is well within reach with a healthy year."
Where Will Newton Go in Fantasy Drafts?
At the moment, Newton was being drafted as the QB36, or at position 292 in fantasy drafts. In essence, he wasn’t being signed unless you were in a two-quarterback league, or perhaps a deep 14 or 16-team league.
That obviously changes now that he’s in New England.
My expectation is Newton moves from QB36 up to as high as QB16, currently occupied by a combination of New York Giants QB Daniel Jones and Ben Roethlisberger of the Steelers. He eventually should land somewhere in the QB16-20 range, surrounded by the likes of Jones, Big Ben, Ryan Tannehill, Joe Burrow and Jared Goff.
In a matter of hours, Cam Newton will have gone from an undrafted fantasy free agent to a later-round targeted pick with upside. The hype is very much real now that New England has an answer at their most important position.