But there is an ideal quarter deck for the Patriots, a full Super Bowl pedigree and a burning desire to prove that people are wrong. His name is Cam Newton.
When Newton’s name was first invoked as a Fort Foxborough adjustment, I rejected it. But Cam’s case is legitimate. He must reinvent himself, just like the Patriots. Newton, cut by Carolina after his injuries had lessened his shine, has something to prove, as does Patriots coach Bill Belichick in first year AB (after Brady). They can do it together in a mutually beneficial deal that buys each time to reset the clock.
Newton is languishing in the free agent market due to concerns about his surgically repaired throwing shoulder and a left foot injury to Lisfranc that limited him to two games last season when he was due for surgery in December. The future 31-year-old, who won the NFL MVP honors in 2015, has significant mileage on him. He looks like a pitcher who overpowered his opponents with 100 mph tricks and now has to do it again with 94 or 95.
What better place to do this than New England, together with Belichick and offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, a quarterback guru who has made the most of Matt Cassel and Kyle Orton? Having Newton would also open up new game possibilities for McDaniels. This near-goal option game that McDaniels tried to snatch from the Texans last season would actually work with Newton under the center.
Newton can be rebuilt and reborn here.
On the surface, he does not stand out as the Patriots’ favorite passer. His career completion percentage is 59.6. Known for celebrating the Superman touchdown, Newton relied as much on his dynamic rushing ability as on his quarterback skills.
But if there is one team that knows how precise and formidable Newton can be, it is New England. In two games against Belichick, Newton is undefeated, including a win at Gillette Stadium in 2017. He has completed 71.9% of his passes and thrown for 525 yards with six touchdowns and one interception against the Patriots. In addition, he rushed 15 times for 106 yards and a touchdown.
The way opponents play against him remains in Belichick’s mind. Newton took over the hoodie.
Before his career was hijacked by shoulder problems and foot injuries, from which he suffered the last preseason to Gillette on an Adam Butler sack, Newton had made progress as a smuggler. In 2018, under the tutelage of veteran offensive coordinator Norv Turner, Newton succeeded 67.9% of his passes, threw 24 touchdowns against 13 interceptions and posted the second best passer rating in his career (94.2) in 14 games, despite a shoulder injury that undermined his prowess in deep ball.
Following this season, Newton, who had a rotated rotator cuff repaired in 2017, underwent arthroscopic surgery to repair the cartilage damage in his shoulder. There is an expiration date on Newton’s arm. But the Patriots don’t need him to be the long-term solution. He doesn’t have to be Superman. He just has to follow him.
Newton did not come without worries beyond injury. He has shown a sulky personality in the past, on and off the field. The sumptuous and ostentatious behavior of the global choice n ° 1 in 2011 could put it in contradiction with the bland and buttoned culture of the Patriots.
Newton is a fierce competitor, but he can present himself as entitled, absorbed and self-promoter. Superficially, he’s not a Belichick type guy. This was highlighted by former Patriots vice president of player staff and FOB (Friend of Bill) certified Scott Pioli in a radio interview.
However, all Belichick really cares about is whether you can help his team win. The Patriots have welcomed flamboyant, frank, egocentric, recalcitrant or unsuitable personality crises. The list includes Corey Dillon, Randy Moss, Albert Haynesworth, Chad Ochocinco, Darrelle Revis and Martellus Bennett.
Last season, the Patriots traded for Michael Bennett and signed Antonio Brown. If Brown suited Belichick from a character perspective, then assimilating Newton shouldn’t be a problem.
The real obstacle to Newton’s signing would be financial. According to the NFL Players Association records, the Patriots have $ 1.076 million in ceiling space. As Belichick has testified, we all know that the cork space can be manipulated in different ways.
Pride and bank account aside, it would be up to Newton to sign a short-term deal with the Patriots and play the long game. He could take what is actually a one-year contract charged with playing incentives for the first coach and first organization of the NFL. The Patriots could decorate it with undoable years or team options they don’t intend to take to save Newton’s face and keep cap space.
Newton would be the quarterback equivalent of the Revis rental. He obtains Belichick’s seal of approval, rebuilds its value, and cashes elsewhere. The Patriots get a QB capable of capitalizing on their aging win list.
It’s a win-win.
Who knows who will throw the passes next season for the Patriots, but it would be wise not to pass on Newton.
Christopher L. Gasper is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @cgasper.