Cam Newton

Offseason Notes: Pats, Packers, Minicamps

As you’re surely well aware by now, this year’s NFL offseason workouts have been a point of tension between the NFLPA and the league. Many teams have announced their intention to skip workouts and proceed entirely virtually like they did last year. Lots of teams also issued statements saying that “many” of their players wouldn’t be attending, and one of those was the Patriots. Well New England started their program this past week, and now we have some details on which players showed up.

Most notably, Cam Newton was in attendance, according to Nicole Yang of the Boston Globe. Fellow Patriots quarterback Jarrett Stidham was also there. Yang points out that Newton has a $100K workout bonus in his contract, giving him some extra motivation. This will likely be something of a trend around the NFL, with quarterbacks wanting to take initiative and not be seen as slacking off. Newton isn’t assured the starting job in 2021, so it’s not surprising he’s doing everything he can to get on the coaching staff’s good side.

Here are some more updates on offseason programs:

  • One team that won’t have anybody showing up is the Packers. That’s because rather than having some in and some out, Green Bay has elected to have the entire first month of their offseason program be virtual, a source told Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com. Demovsky writes that the Packers will re-evaluate ahead of the start of the second phase of the offseason on May 17th. That’s when real on-field work is supposed to start, while right now programs are limited to weight room and conditioning work. The source also told Demovsky that players with workout bonuses “will be credited for attendance by logging on virtually.” Several high profile Packers have big bonuses, like Aaron Rodgers‘ $500K one, but as of right now we won’t get to see whether he would’ve chosen to show up or not.
  • The Titans became the latest team to announce they wouldn’t attend in-person workouts, issuing a statement via the NFLPA’s twitter. Their statement sounds nearly universal.
  • Even though we’re (hopefully) nearing the light at the end of the tunnel with the pandemic, it’s still having very real impacts on players, particularly the unheralded ones looking for a chance. The NFL has told teams they’ll be limited to a maximum of five tryout players at rookie minicamps next month, a source told Tom Pelissero of NFL Network (Twitter link). As Pelissero notes, in normal years there are usually dozens of players invited to tryout at rookie minicamps, and many of them often end up getting signed. Many of these non-priority UDFAs have gone on to be major contributors in the league. Rookie minicamps didn’t happen at all in 2020, so this is at least a small step in a positive direction.

Patriots Notes: Kraft, Newton, Stidham, Free Agency

The Patriots went 7-9 during the inaugural season of the post-Tom Brady era, making it the first time New England had missed the postseason since 2008 (when the team was forced to rely on Matt Cassel in place of an injured Brady). Robert Kraft and the entire Patriots brass are focused on getting back to the playoffs, and they made that clear when they handed out an NFL-record $165MM in guaranteed money during the early parts of free agency.

“What happened here last year was not something to our liking. We had to make the corrections,” Kraft said (via ESPN’s Mike Reiss). “In all the businesses we’re involved in, we try to take advantage of inefficiencies in the market. We were in a unique cap situation this year and it allowed us to try to [fix] things we missed, to a certain extent, in the draft. So this was our best opportunity.”

While Bill Belichick and the Patriots front office were able to patch some holes by spending in free agency, Kraft also acknowledged that this strategy isn’t a recipe for long-term success.

“In the end, if you want to have a good, consistent, winning football team, you can’t do it in free agency. You have to do it through the draft. I don’t feel we’ve done the greatest job the last few years and I really hope, and I believe, I’ve seen a different approach this year,” Kraft said.

Tight ends Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith, linebacker Matt Judon, and wideout Nelson Agholor were among the Patriots’ major free agent acquisitions.

Let’s check out some more notes out of New England:

  • Kraft seemed to excuse quarterback Cam Newton‘s uneven play in 2020, noting that the veteran was joining a new team during an abbreviated preseason, had COVID-19, and dealt with an inconsistent receiver corps. “In fairness to Cam, I’m not sure he had the proper weapons around him last year,” Kraft said. “I really do believe Cam getting COVID, and what it did to the team, it changed a lot. Now we’ll get a chance to see…Players on the team, in the locker room, really love the guy. In the end, I trust Coach Belichick’s ability to build a team, and put the right players in the best position to succeed.”
  • While the owner seemed to hint that Newton would be under center next season, he also kept the door open for former fourth-rounder Jarrett Stidham, who was expected to receive more playing time during his sophomore season. “I don’t know that Jarrett has ever really gotten a fair shot,” Kraft said. “We have to wait and see what happens, and we still have the draft. … Quarterback is the most important position on the team. One way or the other, we have to get that position solidified.”
  • While the Patriots certainly had the ability to spend on free agents, Reiss writes that Belichick’s “cachet” was a major reason why the Patriots were able to recruit players. “This opportunity couldn’t be passed up because of the prestige, being coached by some of the best coaches in the NFL,” said linebacker Raekwon McMillan. “Coach Belichick told me that he’s been watching my career. For a player, you’re talking to a Hall of Fame coach, that really inspired me.”
  • Former defensive coordinator Matt Patricia rejoined the organization this offseason as an assistant, but Reiss notes that the coach’s role has continued to evolve. Patricia has spent recent weeks helping to negotiate and finalize contracts, thus serving “as an added layer of support to Belichick,” per Reiss.

Latest On Patriots, Jimmy Garoppolo

The financial details of the Patriots’ new deal with Cam Newton make it clear that New England is leaving its options open with respect to the quarterback position, and the Jimmy Garoppolo rumblings continue to persist. In a recent appearance on the PFT PM podcast, Tom Curran of NBC Sports Boston said a New England-Garoppolo reunion remains a possibility even after the Newton re-up (via Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk).

Of course, the 49ers would need to make Garoppolo available via trade, and that situation is a little murky. San Francisco GM John Lynch said last month that he had no doubt Garoppolo would be his starting QB in 2021, but just a few days later, a report surfaced indicating that Jimmy G was still on the trade block.

According to Florio, the Niners continue to seek an upgrade, and if they find one, obviously Garoppolo would stand to be dealt. Though he would need to waive his no-trade clause, that probably wouldn’t be a problem if San Francisco brings in, or is planning to bring in, a player that could pose a threat to his starting job.

As Mike Reiss of ESPN.com points out, getting a legitimate quarterback under contract was key for the Patriots with free agency opening this week. Although there are plenty who believe Newton is simply not a viable starter anymore, he is still a beloved figure among players, and the Pats — who have among the most salary cap space in the league — figure to be active players in the market. The club has been connected to some of the top receivers and tight ends available, and those players would probably not even consider Foxborough if Jarrett Stidham was the only passer on the roster. So while the Newton deal doesn’t assure him of anything, it needed to be done.

For his part, Newton expects to take a major step forward in 2021 if given the opportunity. He recently posted a hype video to Instagram promising a return to form next season, and depending on how things shake out in free agency and the draft, he just might get that chance. If nothing else, the fact that the Pats brought him back suggests that the team believes he could look more like his old self with a better complement of weapons surrounding him.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Patriots Re-Sign QB Cam Newton

2:17pm: Newton’s contract marks a raise from his 2020 Patriots pact, but incentives comprise much of the deal. The former MVP passer’s accord carries a $5MM base value, Mike Garafolo of NFL.com tweets. This includes a $2MM signing bonus and $1.5MM guaranteed. The deal also contains $1.5MM in per-game roster bonuses, per Garafolo, who adds the other $9MM is tied to incentives.

9:45am: The Patriots will re-sign quarterback Cam Newton to a one-year deal, as ESPN.com’s Adam Schefter tweets. The new deal could be “worth close to” $14MM, though the details of the deal are unclear. 

Newton’s new contract will not preclude the Patriots from adding another quarterback this offseason, Schefter hears. From the sound of it, Newton’s base value is rather low, making this yet another low-risk/high-reward pact for the Patriots.

Newton joined the Patriots last offseason to replace Tom Brady. Starting in 15 games, Newton threw for 2,657 yards while completing 65.8% of his throws — more accurate than most of his NFL seasons. Unfortunately, he also threw for just eight touchdowns against ten interceptions.

Newton started strong, but the former MVP dovetailed later in the year. His COVID-19 interruption didn’t help matters; nor did injuries to Julian Edelman, David Andrews, and Rex Burkhead. All in all, Newton went 7-8 as a starter and the Patriots finished 7-9.

Still, Bill Belichick reportedly loved coaching Newton. Despite concerns about his arm strength and his long-term health, the Patriots were happy to re-up Newton for another low-cost season.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Latest On Patriots’ QB Outlook

We heard at the beginning of January that the Patriots and quarterback Cam Newton were unlikely to reunite in 2021, but a report from earlier this week suggested that the the door is not closed on a Newton return to Foxborough next season. And multiple sources tell Ben Volin of the Boston Globe that they would not be surprised to see the Pats re-sign the 2015 league MVP.

After all, HC Bill Belichick reportedly loved coaching Newton, and Volin hears that even after the 2020 campaign, Belichick has raved about the effort that Newton put forth last season. He is concerned about Newton’s arm strength — which is understandable given the 31-year-old’s disappointing passing performance during his first season with New England — but he appears open to continuing the relationship just the same. Newton, meanwhile, has been similarly candid about how much he enjoyed playing for the Pats, so if the two sides can agree to another inexpensive contract, a re-up could be in the cards.

Of course, the club has also had conversations about every quarterback in the league that could be available via trade, and the expectation remains that the Pats will select a QB in the early rounds of this year’s draft (perhaps with their No. 15 overall selection). So if Newton comes back, it obviously won’t be as anything more than a bridge option to a younger passer, and Mike Reiss of ESPN.com suggests that the team could even re-sign Newton and pair him with another veteran.

If New England goes that route, one obvious option would be to re-sign longtime Patriot Brian Hoyer, as Volin notes. Volin also believes that Mitchell Trubisky could be on the Pats’ radar, and at this point in their respective careers, Trubisky certainly appears to have a higher ceiling than Newton. Some have connected the dots between New England and former Belichick draftee Jacoby Brissett, but Volin sees a Brissett signing as unlikely since he did not “click” with Belichick and OC Josh McDaniels before he was dealt to the Colts in 2017. Assuming the Patriots do end up adding two QBs this offseason, Jarrett Stidham‘s roster status will be very much in doubt.

One collegiate signal-caller that has been routinely mocked to the Patriots is Alabama QB Mac Jones. As Reiss notes in the piece linked above, former New England OC Charlie Weis was effusive in his praise of Jones, and Weis sees him as a perfect fit in the Pats’ offense. Though he is not as athletic as some of the other passers in this year’s class, Jones is more than capable of moving around in the pocket and can make accurate throws to every part of the field.

If the Pats really want Jones, though, they may have to trade up from the No. 15 pick. His stock is rising, and ESPN draftniks Mel Kiper, Jr. and Todd McShay both believe he will be off the board by the time New England is on the clock.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Patriots Calling On Every QB, Newton Wants To Return

The quarterback carousel has already seen some crazy shuffling, and we’re only just getting started on this offseason. There are plenty of teams out there still looking to make a move, including the Patriots.

New England was a big disappointment on offense last year, and it sounds like Bill Belichick is leaving no stone unturned as he pursues possible upgrades at the game’s most important position. To that end, the Pats “have had conversations regarding every potential trade target in the league,” sources told Jeff Howe of The Athletic. We know they were briefly involved in Matthew Stafford talks, and this would seem to indicate they’ve at least called about guys like Deshaun Watson, Carson Wentz, Sam Darnold, and potentially others such as Marcus Mariota, Jimmy Garoppolo, or even Matt Ryan and Russell Wilson.

Howe writes bluntly that “if a quarterback has been perceived to be available, the Patriots have picked up the phone.” Howe thinks Belichick is taking a purposefully patient approach to avoid overpaying and to see if the asking price on a veteran he’s interested in goes down once the market starts to dry up.

As for the incumbent starter, impending free agent Cam Newton, Howe writes that the team hasn’t “ruled out” bringing him back for another year. For his part, it sounds like the former MVP would love to return.

On a recent episode of the ‘I Am Athlete’ podcast, Newton said “hell yes” when asked if he would go back to New England, via Doug Kyed of NESN (Twitter link). Newton says he’s “getting tired of changing” and is at a point in his career where he wants continuity. He emphasized that he already knows a lot more about the system than he did last year, and that all the receivers are now more comfortable with him.

When he was asked if there was a chance of him playing for the Pats in 2021, he said “there’s always a chance for everything,” but said “I can’t say that” when asked if he had been talking with the franchise.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Patriots’ Cam Newton Won’t Wait To Sign

Cam Newton is on track for free agency in the spring. This time around, the Patriots quarterback tells Greg Hill of WEEI that he doesn’t want to wait until the summer to sign a deal. 

That’s definitely going to go into consideration,” Newton said (Twitter link via ESPN.com’s Mike Reiss). “I’m not going to wait in the latter part of another season when I have the opportunity to do something or sign with someone.”

Though no decision has been made, the Patriots are not expected to re-sign Newton. Newton threw for just five touchdowns against ten interceptions, resulting in an NFL-low 78.9 quarterback rating. The Patriots expected more from the former MVP, and they missed the playoffs for the first time in a long time.

Newton may still hold appeal for other teams, given his potential and the dearth of talent at the QB position. Plus, he’s shown he can still be effective with his feet, having rushed 126 times for 513 yards (4.1 YPC average) and 12 TDs. He also stayed healthy – no small feat, given his pre-Patriots history.

No matter where he lands, the 31-year-old has every intention of starting.

If you are asking me, Do I want to be a backup? Hell no!,” Newton said. “When I look at other teams, and I’m looking at other players play, there have been guys that have been getting away with murder for years because of subpar play. Do I have the right to say that with the year I had this year? No. But I’m going to be honest and say it because that’s what I do.”

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Patriots Not Expected To Re-Sign Cam Newton

Cam Newton and the Patriots are expected to part ways after the season, as ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported on Sunday NFL Countdown this morning (h/t Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk). This jibes with a report from Mike Reiss of ESPN.com last month.

These rumors are hardly surprising. The 2020 season has mostly been a struggle for Newton and the Patriots, who will miss the playoffs for the first time since 2008. Newton has thrown for just five TDs against 10 interceptions, and his 78.9 quarterback rating is among the league’s worst.

The good news is that he has shown he can still be an effective runner, having rushed 126 times for 513 yards (good for a 4.1 YPC average) and 12 scores. Plus, he has managed to stay healthy this season after concerns about his injury history forced him to accept a below-market deal with the Pats in late June.

Newton’s trip to free agency last offseason was delayed because the Panthers waited to release him until they explored trade options, and COVID-19 protocols at the time did not permit interested teams to evaluate him for awhile. He will have a better chance at securing a favorable deal this offseason, but his poor passing performance will limit his market.

The former MVP would certainly have fared better with a more talented set of receivers surrounding him, but it would still be surprising to see a team sign him and give him a starting job outright. Instead, he will probably be brought aboard by a club that wants to have him compete for a starting role.

The Patriots, meanwhile, will still have Jarrett Stidham under contract in 2021, but they are likely to bring in an established veteran or use a high draft choice on a rookie passer.

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Cam Newton To Remain Patriots’ QB

After picking up back-to-back wins to keep themselves in the AFC playoff picture, the Patriots were pummeled by the Rams in last night’s primetime affair. With New England trailing 24-3 in the fourth quarter, head coach Bill Belichick pulled starting QB Cam Newton in favor of Jarrett Stidham. But even though the loss effectively torpedoed the Pats’ postseason hopes, Belichick is not benching Newton.

When asked about his quarterback situation after the game, the future Hall of Fame HC said, “Great question. Really glad you asked that. Cam’s our quarterback” (Twitter link via Ben Volin of the Boston Globe).

Newton, 31, signed a very modest one-year pact with the Patriots in late June. Though he has shown flashes of his old self, particularly as a runner, the 2020 campaign has largely been a struggle. Over 12 games, he has thrown for just 2,172 yards and five TDs against 10 interceptions, good for a 78.9 quarterback rating. On the plus side, he has maintained a 4.0 yards-per-carry average over 113 rushing attempts and has found paydirt 11 times on the ground.

He has certainly not had a world-class contingent of skill position talent to work with, and he has been dealing with an abdomen injury that certainly could have impacted his performance in last night’s game (to his credit, Newton denied that his poor play was due to injury). Still, it might make sense for New England to at least give Stidham, a second-year passer who looked as though he would be the club’s starting quarterback before the Newton signing, a chance to show what he can do with a full week of first-team practice reps and an offensive scheme more tailored to his skillset.

Belichick, though, will continue rolling with the 2015 league MVP, whose market value probably won’t be much higher in 2021 than it was in 2020. And as Mike Reiss of ESPN.com said this morning, Newton is unlikely to be back with the Patriots next season, even if the team wanted to re-sign him (video link).

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

AFC East Notes: Patriots, Newton, Jets

Midway through an up-and-down year with the Patriots, does Cam Newton want to return in 2021? The quarterback claims that he hasn’t given it much thought.

Man, I have interest in winning the Arizona Cardinals game. How about that?” Newton told WEEI (via NBC Sports). “There are so many things that — I don’t want to even harp, dwell, or even think – as the Bible says, my cup runneth over. Just trying to focus on the near future rather than the far future.”

Newton has led the Pats to wins over the Dolphins, Raiders, and Ravens this year, but he also has seven interceptions across nine games. All in all, he’s 4-5 as the Patriots’ starter. The Patriots haven’t missed the playoffs since 2008, and they’ll be in rough shape if Newton can’t deliver against the Cardinals this weekend.

Here’s more from the AFC East:

  • The Patriots had Stephon Gilmore back on the field against the Texans. The reason for his three-game absence? Gilmore says his knee injury occurred was caused by a collision in practice (via ESPN.com’s Mike Reiss). Fortunately, it looks like he’s healed up significantly, though his presence wasn’t enough for the Pats to win on Sunday.
  • The Jets are expected to do some defensive demolition this offseason, according to ESPN.com’s Rich Cimini. In fact, GM Joe Douglas could wind up with seven new starters — safeties Marcus Maye and Bradley McDougald; cornerbacks Pierre Desir and Brian Poole; and linebackers Tarell Basham, Jordan Jenkins, and Neville Hewitt are all ticketed for free agency. Maye is the best of the bunch, but the Jets have flirted with trading him in the past. Defensive lineman Henry Anderson is also on the chopping block, thanks to his $9.5MM cap figure for 2021.
  • Douglas will be in charge of the roster, but it’s not clear whether owner Woody Johnson or CEO Christopher Johnson will be running the show. As Cimini notes, Woody may be free to return from his ambassador role in January.
  • The Dolphins benched Tua Tagovailoa against the Broncos, but the star rookie will continue to start ahead of Ryan Fitzpatrick.