Cam Newton’s contract shows Patriots are not promising him starting job – New England Patriots Blog

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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Quick-hit thoughts and notes around the New England Patriots and NFL:

  • Cam fallout: Here are some of the biggest takeaways from the Patriots’ one-year agreement with Cam Newton on Friday:

  • Follow the money — The specifics of the contract speak volumes about the Patriots’ thinking. As ESPN NFL analyst Tim Hasselbeck said on SportsCenter, it’s a contract that one would expect a backup to sign. Newton will earn $5.1 million if he’s healthy and on the roster as a backup, with upside to $6.6 million if he starts all season and $8.6 million if he starts and the team makes the playoffs. The rest of the money he can earn, up to a total of $13.6 million, is based on honors and how far New England might advance in the playoffs. So this isn’t the Patriots saying, “Cam is definitely our guy” as much as it’s “We wanted someone in place before the start of free agency; we assessed all the free-agent options; and the idea of trying to build on 2020 with Cam — at a modest financial price — is the best choice right now based on the alternatives.”

  • Cam’s physical skills — Can Newton still physically play at a high level? Coach Bill Belichick obviously believes he can, which is important to note considering some of the off-the-mark bounced passes that sparked questions about Newton’s mechanics and overall health last season. Patriots Hall of Famer Rodney Harrison, speaking for a vocal part of the Patriots’ fan base, previously told NBC Boston: “It would be a terrible mistake to bring Cam back because Cam can’t play football anymore. He just can’t play quarterback in the National Football League.” Belichick obviously disagrees.

  • Player reaction — While the majority of reaction on local sports radio was negative Friday, the contrast in how the New England players reacted was telling. Many were pumped — safety/longtime captain Devin McCourty among them — which is a reflection of how much they enjoyed Newton as a teammate in 2020 and how much they want to play with (and for) him.

  • Patriots at Panthers — Newton’s return, and current status as the most likely starter, sets up a hot-ticket scenario in Charlotte as New England is scheduled to visit the Carolina Panthers in the regular season. It would be Newton’s first time returning to play where his career began.

  • Eyes on the future — Bringing Newton back won’t stop the Patriots from adding another QB, whether it’s via free agency, a trade or the draft. They’ve had a presence at every top quarterback pro day to date.

2. Henry vs. Jonnu: For a Patriots team that has the fewest receptions (55), receiving yards (673), targets (87) and receiving touchdowns (3) in the NFL from its tight ends over the past two seasons, there is promise in NFL free agency after Hunter Henry (Los Angeles Chargers) and Jonnu Smith (Tennessee Titans) weren’t assigned the franchise tag.

Now the question is if the Patriots can land one of them with a big-money deal, and in conversations with front-office personnel around the NFL, there’s no clear-cut answer on who would be the better fit.

Among those I spoke with, Smith (6-foot-3, 248 pounds) is considered the better blocker. He’s also younger (25), faster and has been more durable.

But Henry (6-foot-5, 250 pounds) is more accomplished and viewed as a superior receiver (196 catches vs. Smith’s 114). His injury history, including his time at Arkansas, is a concern as he has never played a full season.

Either would immediately become the No. 1 option for the Patriots, who had 18 receptions from tight ends in 2020, the fewest by any team since the 2016 New York Jets (18).

3. Cannon’s future: When the Patriots agreed to a trade for offensive tackle Trent Brown, it sparked questions about offensive tackle Marcus Cannon‘s future with the team. One source close to Cannon believed the “writing was on the wall” for him to be cut, which would save the team about $6.3 million in salary-cap space. A factor in the decision-making process could be that Cannon, because of COVID-19 concerns, has yet to return to New England for a physical examination/workout like others who opted out of the 2020 season.

4. Brown-Cabrera connection: Brown had his best season as a pro in 2018 with the Patriots, under now-retired offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia. Brown benefited from Scarnecchia’s disciplined approach, and so Scarnecchia’s absence is a notable change in Brown’s second go-around with the team. At the same time, strength coach Moses Cabrera is still here, which is also notable because Brown was in arguably the best shape of his career in ’18 while working with Cabrera. They hit it off. And with Brown’s deal including heavy incentives (he has to be healthy/in shape to earn its full value), those are important dynamics.

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Adam Schefter breaks down Trent Brown’s return to the Patriots in a trade with the Raiders.

5. Time to spend? The Patriots have spent the third least amount of guaranteed money on free agents over the past three off-seasons, at $53.2 million, according to Roster Management System data utilized by ESPN. Only the Steelers ($34.9 million) and Cowboys ($45.1 million) are lower.

6. Jackson’s tender: Now that restricted free-agent tender amounts are finalized, the Patriots have a decision to make with cornerback J.C. Jackson, who finished second in the NFL last season with nine interceptions. Do they give him a first-round tender at $4.76 million, or a second-round tender at $3.38 million? Given that cap space is generally tight around the league, and there might be a Patriots-based thought to manage expectations in any extension talks, it wouldn’t shock me if it’s the second-round level. Most still project a first-round tender, though.

7. Bethel values stability: The Patriots re-signed special-teams ace Justin Bethel, who chose longer-term security in a place he’s come to appreciate (a three-year deal worth up to $6 million) over testing free agency. He and his wife, Breanna, are expecting their first child and stability was a priority after being with four different teams over three years. While such a signing might not move the needle in New England, I took note of Chargers general Tom Telesco recently referencing Bethel’s role as a top gunner covering punts, as one of his team’s top needs.

8. Play-action foundation: If Newton is the Patriots’ starter, an area to watch is how Josh McDaniels looks for innovative ways to build around the play-action passing game. Consider that in 2020, the Patriots called a run, or play-action pass, at the third highest rate in the league, according to NFL Next Gen Stats. Only the Ravens (69.7%) and Titans (66.7%) were higher.

9. Draft nugget: “I’ve never had more teams call to try to get information that they’ve never needed to get information on [before], because I’ve been around and on the field, talking to players, sitting in meetings and they haven’t been able to. Think about how unique that is. You’re getting ready to give $25-30 million to someone and you haven’t been able to have your people on the ground, face to face, talking to that human being.” — ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay, on the “First Draft” podcast, after ESPN Senior draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. said, “This is not only the most mysterious draft ever, it’s the most complicated draft ever — for a variety of reasons.”

10. Did You Know: When the Patriots’ trade for Brown becomes official this week, it will mark the third time since the early 1980s that a team has traded for the same player two different times (the Patriots had originally acquired Brown in ’18 from San Francisco). The others are running back Jerome Harrison (Philadelphia Eagles) and QB Mark Herrmann (Colts).



Source : ESPN