How the New England Patriots would address their quarterback situation was one of the NFL’s more intriguing offseason questions. But for at least one more year, the Patriots will continue with Cam Newton under center.
On Friday, the team announced re-signing Newton to a one-year contract. The Boston Globe‘s Jim McBride was the first to announce the new agreement. ESPN’s Adam Schefter soon followed up with news that the deal could be worth nearly $14 million. Schefter’s colleague, Mike Reiss, reports that the deal includes $6 million of incentives.)
Newton had an inconsistent first season with New England, replacing Tom Brady at quarterback. In 15 games, he completed 66 percent (242-of-368) of his passes for 2,657 yards, eight touchdowns, and 10 interceptions.
Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels also utilized Newton’s skills as a runner, something the offense could never feature with Brady. Setting a Patriots record for a QB, Newton rushed for 549 yards and 12 touchdowns on 149 carries.
New England finished 7-9 and missed the NFL playoffs for the first time in 12 seasons.
The former MVP missed one game (in Week 4) after testing positive for COVID-19 and there was speculation that lingering effects from the coronavirus contributed to declining performance later in the season. In a Week 15 matchup against the Buffalo Bills, Newton completed only five of 10 passes for 34 yards and was benched in the second half.
But he also had some standout games in which he showed the skills that made him one of the best dual-threat quarterbacks in the NFL. He threw for 397 yards and rushed for two touchdowns in a Week 2 loss to the Seattle Seahawks. And in Week 10 versus the Houston Texans, Newton threw for 365 yards.
What the Patriots will do beyond Newton at quarterback has yet to be determined. Jarrett Stidham is under contract through 2022. But in his first two seasons, he hasn’t shown that he can take over as the starter. In eight games, Stidham has completed 50 percent (24-of-48) of his passes for 270 yards, two touchdowns, and four interceptions. He also averaged only 5.8 yards per attempt.
New England has the No. 15 selection in this year’s NFL Draft. Will they use that pick on a quarterback of the future, perhaps Alabama’s Mac Jones if he’s available? Otherwise, the Patriots will likely go with a defensive player such as Jones’s teammate, cornerback Patrick Surtain II.
But could Bill Belichick trade up in the first round to get a developmental prospect like North Dakota State’s Trey Lance? Or could the team wait and hope somebody like Florida’s Kyle Trask or Texas A&M’s Kellen Mond is available in the second round (where the Patriots have the No. 47 selection)?
Until the Patriots map out a plan for the future at quarterback, Belichick might be better off upgrading the team’s talent at receiver beyond Julian Edelman and N’Keal Harry (though NFL Network’s Mike Garofalo says teams are asking about a trade for Harry) and find a tight end who can be a viable threat in the passing game.