Elise Amendola/Associated Press
The New England Patriots reportedly re-signed quarterback Cam Newton before the start of the NFL‘s new league year Wednesday.
ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported it’s a one-year contract worth nearly $14 million, which would leave around $56 million in cap space from the original $70 million Spotrac noted the Pats entered the offseason with.
Here’s a look at the Patriots’ projected offensive starters with Newton’s return secured:
- QB: Cam Newton
- RB: Damien Harris
- WR: Julian Edelman
- WR: Jakobi Meyers
- WR: N’Keal Harry
- TE: Ryan Izzo
- LT: Isaiah Wynn
- LG: Michael Onwenu
- C: Ross Reynolds
- RG: Shaquille Mason
- RT: Marcus Cannon
Although New England brought back Newton, the front office will continue to “explore other options” at quarterback during the offseason, per CBS Sports’ Jason La Canfora.
The 2015 NFL MVP is trying to re-establish himself as a franchise quarterback after injuries derailed his final two years with the Carolina Panthers. He missed the end of the 2018 season with a shoulder injury that required surgery and only played two games in 2019 because of a foot injury.
Newton made an impact with his legs in 2020, recording 592 rushing yards and 12 scores on the ground, but he struggled from the pocket. He completed 65.8 percent of his throws for 2,657 yards with eight touchdowns and 10 interceptions in 15 games.
The three-time Pro Bowl selection didn’t showcase the same type of downfield playmaking ability he did across his nine years in Carolina, but a lack of proven targets was likely a factor in those struggles.
Top target Julian Edelman was limited to six appearances because of a knee injury, and he’s more of a threat on short and intermediate routes. None of the Pats’ other receivers, a group led by Jakobi Meyers, Damiere Byrd and N’Keal Harry, emerged as a true No. 1 option in Edelman’s absence.
In fact, the team’s longest pass play of the year was a 50-yard completion to tight end Ryan Izzo, which sums up the offense’s inability to generate big plays.
So New England would be wise to utilize its ample cap space, which will be a major asset in this year’s free-agent period because of the reduced salary cap, to target the best receiver it can find. The Detroit Lions‘ Kenny Golladay should be the first call the team makes.
Newton should also benefit from an offseason where he can focus solely on getting back into a rhythm as a passer, something that hasn’t happened the past two years while he recovered from injuries.
If he can come anywhere close to his prior MVP-level play, the Patriots have some sleeper potential in 2021 if they can upgrade their offensive weapons, because the defense will be getting back linebacker Dont’a Hightower and safety Patrick Chung, who both opted out of the 2020 campaign amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
It sets the stage for a strong bounce-back year after the Pats finished 7-9 in 2020 to miss the playoffs for the first time since 2008.