It’s supposed to be the slowest part of the NFL calendar, and yet Foxboro was humming with updates Sunday night.
First, the Patriots may have dealt themselves back into the think of the AFC East race by signing Cam Newton. It’s reportedly a one year, prove it type deal.
New England has spent the offseason talking up untested second year QB Jarrett Stidham as their starter heading into 2020. Newton may, ultimately, not change anything, but he is easily the more dependable option.
Injuries have been Newton’s biggest problems the last two seasons. He played only two games in 2019 after a Lisfranc foot injury that required surgery. A shoulder injury severely limited Newton late in 2018 before cutting the season two games short.
Moments after the news broke about Newton, the NFL’s punishment for the Patriots illegal filming incident in Cincinnati was also reported.
The Pats were hit with $1.1 million in fines. They will forfeit their 2021 third round pick and their TV production crew will not be allowed to record any games during the 2020 season.
This isn’t the first videotaping infraction for Bill Belichick with the Patriots. The infamous Spygate scheme cost New England $750K in fines and a first round pick.
How will this all affect the Bills?
Thad’s Three Things
To discuss Newton’s impact on the Pats, let’s assume Jarrett Stidham isn’t some legendary underdog success story that’s going to come out of no where and become a top flight NFL QB. New England just caught that lightning in a bottle (see Brady, Tom). The likelihood of it happening again is equal to Belichick no longer trying to skirt NFL rules.
That means Newton could be a very big deal. He’s not a super QB, despite the hype and his very outlier-ish MVP season. He’s still a competent enough thrower and has plenty of ability as a playmaker.
The Patriot defense won’t be as stellar as last year, but it’s still pretty good. Belichick is still a defensive genius and the best coach of all time. It’s quite possible the Patriots can ugly up a bunch of games and get two or three plays late from Newton to win ten times in 2020. It’s more or less what the Bills did last year.
The question with Newton is health. He’s coming a shoulder surgery in 2019 and a foot surgery last winter. It’s hard to imagine Newton having a problem free season maybe ever again.
Not On Time, But In Time?
The Patriots probably would not wait this long to bring Newton in if there was an offseason program this spring. It’s not as if Stidham was terrible in Zoom meetings and caused a panic in Foxboro. This was likely a move that was strongly considered since Tom Brady departed for Tampa Bay.
The flip side is that now Newton is only going to have training camp to get caught up with his new teammates. He can’t even do personal off-site workouts with the offense if he is to follow NFLPA guidelines.
That’s going to be a monster advantage for the Bills when it comes to comparing the two AFC East contenders. Josh Allen has 16 games experience with everyone on the offense not named Stefon Diggs and even has a couple of offseason workouts in the bag with the entire squad during this offseason.
A Slap On The Wrist
It was no coincidence the Newton signing came minutes before the NFL dropped it’s Spygate II punishment. The Patriots were making sure to give the NFL news cycle something else to discuss.
It really wasn’t much of a punishment. The million bucks in fines will barely register for an NFL franchise. The third round pick does hurt, but we’re talking about… maybe… pick 75 next year. It could even be close to pick 90.
I could make the argument that the lack of filming is the harshest part of the punishment. It takes away an avenue of rule-breaking for Darth Belichick and the Evil Empire.
For a team with a rap sheet when it comes to bending, breaking and laughing in the face of NFL rules, I expected more.
Are the Patriots now AFC East favorites?
The short answer is no.
The long answer is if I get to sign for 16 healthy games with Cam Newton, then I’d say yes. I have the Bills as a 10-11 win team this year (short explanation: better team + better schedule = similar record to 2019). I thought the Pats were around an 8-win team. Is a healthy Cam three games better than Stidham? I think so.
I just don’t think many will die on the healthy Cam hill. Not only is he on the other side of 30, he’s a multi-dimensional QB that’s recently had surgeries on key physical parts of both dimensions: his shoulder and his foot.
Are either one 100 percent? Are both? Will they stay that way all year? Aren’t too many confident yes’s to any of those questions.
No doubt the Patriots just restored their place as the top threat to a Bills division title. However, Newton is not Brady. The move is super late and the pieces around him aren’t even what Brady had last year.
The Bills are still #1 in the division, but it is a whole lot easier to envision how they might not end up that way at season’s end.