How’s it going today, Patriots fans?
The longer the Patriots were on the market for a quarterback, for a second straight year, and as they continued to dawdle, the more this move felt like a possibility. Not exactly a home run move by Bill Belichick. More of an opposite-field single with no runners on base and two outs in the 8th, down by three.
First, let’s consider the upsides. This move comes on March 12. Last year, the Patriots didn’t sign Cam Newton until July 8. In addition to already having one season with the Patriots under his belt, this gives Newton four more months to prepare for the 2021 season than he had to prepare for the 2020 season. Additionally, with COVID-19 hopefully on its way out, maybe a more regular offseason will benefit Newton and his teammates as they prepare for the 2021 campaign. (Let’s also not forget that Newton had COVID himself during the season. Fewer in-seasons disruptions and health scares will help, too.) And among his teammates this season will be all eight of the Patriots who opted out last season. That should be a big boost for the team on both sides of the ball.
Now the downsides. Newton is a former Heisman Trophy winner and NFL MVP, but that feels like ages ago. Here’s how he closed out his 2020 campaign:
Also, what types of weapons will Newton have to work with? Even before Julian Edelman went down last year the Patriots cupboard seemed bare and the offense felt slow. Edelman’s status for 2021 is up in the air at this point but even if he came back Week 1 healthy as horse, how much can you expect out of a 35-year-old wide receiver who isn’t Jerry Rice?
With that in mind, my ambivalence about today’s move is less about Newton and more about Bill. It seems like Belichick is afflicted by the same condition that afflicts Danny Ainge, which causes him the strong desire to only make trades when he can bury his trading partner. That would explain why he won’t play ball for Jimmy Garoppolo. I’m not advocating for a Matthew Stafford-like deal, but at some point you have to spend money to make money. How many times has Belichick traded down or out of the first round (or had other high-round picks seized by the league office)? Why not package some of the picks you were just gonna use on a guard from Navy or a lacrosse player from Penn and get the guy you really want?
The Patriots have a lot of blank spaces to fill in and questions to answer as they build their roster for the 2021 season. While this move fills in a blank space, it doesn’t answer many questions. In fact, it accentuates the other questions that were already there. What is the plan (or is there a plan) at running back, tight end, and wide receiver? I’ll be rooting for Newton, but unless the Patriots surround him with a better supporting cast, 2021 could be a rerun of 2020.