New England Patriots Back in Super Bowl Picture After Cam Newton Signing

Brent Sobleski@@brentsobleskiNFL AnalystJune 29, 2020

Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton (1) throws a pass against the New England Patriots during an NFL game in Charlotte, N.C. on Friday, Aug. 24, 2018. (Chris Keane/AP Images for Panini)
Chris Keane/Associated Press

Y'know, Bill Belichick, just when everyone thinks time has finally passed the New England Patriots by, you go and sign Cam Newton and totally redeem yourself.

Too many fell for the ruse.

Too many actually thought the Patriots realistically planned to start unproven second-year quarterback Jarrett Stidham.

Too many began to fool themselves into believing Belichick may really see something in the 2019 fourth-round pick and Stidham really could be a franchise signal-caller.

Instead, New England waited and waited and waited some more before pulling the trigger on one of the league's best offseason moves to keep the team in Super Bowl contention and provide a Frankenstein-like "It's alive!" jolt to the NFL's most successful organization after Tom Brady's departure previously dealt it a major blow.

According to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, Newton is signing a one-year deal worth up to $7.5 million.

The move itself works on multiple levels.

Even if Newton hits all his contract escalators, he'll be tied with Marcus Mariota as the NFL's 20th-highest-paid quarterback this fall, per Over the Cap. The Patriots can now lean on a former league MVP to lead the offense. Also, they have the ability to gain a future compensatory selection if Newton plays well but decides not to re-sign next offseason.

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Conversely, New England isn't locked into a long-term agreement if the 31-year-old quarterback doesn't return to form.

Elise Amendola/Associated Press

This signing screams Belichickian brilliance, and Newton is well worth the risk because of the potential return.

To be fair, not every risky move the Patriots made in recent years worked out in the team's favor. Josh Gordon and Chad Johnson can attest to that. However, Newton's track record and recent play before injuries portend further success, especially in a new-look Patriots offense fashioned by coordinator Josh McDaniels.

No one can deny the 6'5", 245-pound signal-caller's natural abilities.

From the moment Newton stepped onto a professional football field, he completely changed how many viewed the quarterback position. His combination of size, athleticism, mobility and lively arm showed what a truly elite talent could do at the game's most important position, and he certainly came through by setting multiple NFL rookie records, winning Offensive Rookie of the Year, going to three Pro Bowls, claiming an MVP trophy and helping lead the Carolina Panthers to Super Bowl 50.

Unfortunately, injuries took a toll after defenders pummeled the dual-threat quarterback. In '18, Newton suffered a shoulder injury that required surgery the following offseason. Last year, he played in only two games thanks to a Lisfranc injury.

Prior to those stumbling blocks, Newton played well, as CBS Sports' Sean Wagner-McGough noted:

The quarterback's previous foot ailment served as a major question mark since organizations couldn't get him in their facilities due to the ongoing global pandemic. But Newton tried to stay on top of things by posting workout videos in which he looked ready to play.

If health isn't a factor, the things Belichick and McDaniels can do with Newton behind center should have everyone outside of Patriots' opponents excited. The head coach has been preparing for this moment, even if the rest of us didn't quite know it.

Three years ago, Belichick sang Newton's praises because he knew how difficult it was to defend elite athletes at the quarterback position.

"Well, I think both guys [Newton and the Houston Texans' Deshaun Watson] probably have a few plays that are designed runs, and then there are other plays that are improvised runs," he said, per NBC Boston's Phil Perry. "I think when you're talking about mobile quarterbacks, guys that are tough to handle, tackle, can throw, run, make good decisions—I mean, I would put Newton at the top of the list."

Obviously, Belichick's comments came before the Baltimore Ravens' Lamar Jackson set the NFL rushing record by a quarterback, but the point remains. Mobile quarterbacks are "tough to handle." In fact, the Patriots devised a way to attack offenses that implemented the zone read and other designed quarterback runs.

"I think you are definitely seeing a strong trend in the league towards bigger safeties that play linebacker," Belichick said, per CLNS' Evan Lazar. "You see less of the big run-stopping Ted Johnson, Brandon Spikes type players. It's just harder when the offense spreads you out."

Now, the Patriots aren't just preparing for those types of quarterbacks; they'll feature one.

Brady will go down as the greatest player in New England history. He's in the conversation as the greatest player in league history, as well. But the aging quarterback limited what his team could do on offense as the game evolved. That statement isn't a slight against Brady; he's a different type of performer and excels in his role.

But the Patriots now have an opportunity to modernize their offensive scheme and feature a unique quarterback, which in turn will help everyone else in the offense.

One of the downfalls to Brady's game as he advanced past his 40th birthday is that he struggled to elevate the entire scheme and the surrounding pieces. Newton's skill set should open up the Patriots attack because the threat of him running or blasting the ball downfield is so vastly different than the previous quarterback's strengths.

Jason E. Miczek/Associated Press

McDaniels doesn't necessarily have to rely on a timing offense in which the trigger man has to be precise at all times. Instead, Newton's mobility will create opportunities for RPOs and yardage after the catch for a wide receiver corps that underperformed as a unit last season.

The running game will become less predictable, as well. Newton can play off Sony Michel instead of defenses keying in on the '18 first-round pick because he's more likely to carry the ball than be involved in the passing game.

On the other side of the ball, New England already ranked first overall in scoring defense a year ago. The offense was mediocre, though.

Newton creates a different dynamic that will allow the Patriots to remain in the Super Bowl picture if he's utilized correctly. Surely, the Buffalo Bills, Miami Dolphins and New York Jets had to expel a collective groan Sunday night when they learned of the news. Not only will the Patriots be difficult to beat once again, but those divisional foes also have to prepare for Newton twice per year.

The signing isn't just about retaining AFC East dominance, either. Under the supervision of Belichick and McDaniels, Newton can give the Ravens and Kansas City Chiefs a run for their money as the AFC's best overall squad.

With this signing, Belichick and Co. are telling everyone there's a chance the Patriots' reign could last into the foreseeable future.

Brent Sobleski covers the NFL for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @brentsobleski.