The New England Patriots replaced former NFL MVP Tom Brady with another on Sunday when they signed Cam Newton to help fill the void left by Brady.
Newton, 31, signed a one-year, incentive-laden deal worth up to $ 7.5 million, league sources told ESPN’s Chris Mortensen and Adam Schefter.
The structure of the contract, as well as Newton’s campaign ruined by injuries in 2019 followed by a long wait to sign a contract, suggest that it cannot be considered a block to start before Jarrett Stidham’s second year. NFL Nation Patriots reporter Mike Reiss agreed, noting that both Newton and Stidham are wildcards and that he sees it as “true open competition.”
So the question is, how do we fit our thinking into fantasy?
Mike Clay's fantasy perspective: For now, I'm projecting Newton for 13 starts and Stidham for three. That would mean a healthy Newton wins the competition, but it also covers both the injury and the possibility that he just isn't the same player he was during his prime.
New England has called a first-pass offense for 11 of the past 13 seasons, but the tea leaves suggest a change to a first-run attack in 2020. Those leaves include Newton's signing, the league's largest financial investment in guard position and a couple of third-round draft picks spent on tight ends. Obviously, this likely conversion takes away some appeal from top pass catchers Julian Edelman, N'Keal Harry, James White and Mohamed Sanu Sr., though that is largely offset by a much more engaging quarterback depth chart.
It may seem strange to say about a quarterback better known for his running ability than his arm, but keep in mind that Newton had his best season as a passer the last time he was healthy. During that 2018 season with the Carolina Panthers, Newton was more conservative (7.3 yards, the lowest run for average pitch depth), but that led to a 68% higher career completion percentage and a solid 7.2 YPA. Newton was still an effective running back that season (488 yards and four touchdowns on 101 attempts in 14 games) and finished in the top eight in fantasy points per game for the seventh time in eight seasons.
Last season was a different story, as a preseason foot injury limited Newton to two games. Newton was not the same player, loading the ball just five times for 2 negative yards after ranking no less than fourth among QBs in career attempts, yards and touchdowns in each of the previous eight seasons.
Before 2019, Newton had missed just five of 128 possible games since joining the league, though it's fair to wonder if 929 carries during the span have taken their toll.
All that said, Newton needs to be on his radar like a flying flyer in fantasy drafts. There is a reasonable chance that a healthy Newton, who offers a very high floor due to his running ability, working with an elite training tandem from Bill Belichick and Josh McDaniels, could quickly join the QB1 conversation. Even better, your average draft position is unlikely to spiral out of control considering the aforementioned question marks and the many safest options in the position. If Newton doesn't win the job or fight, you can easily cut the bait with a minimum value lost. However, if he returns to form, you have a robbery.
As for the other members of the New England offensive, I'm not moving the needle much. Edelman, White and Sony Michel are good mid-round targets, with Harry and Damien Harris intriguing last-round flyers. Closed ends can be ignored, as can Stidham, who should be listed only in the two QB and dynasty leagues.
2020 Cam Newton 13-start projection: 269 of 432, 2,972 yards, 17 TD, 10 INT, 71 carries, 358 yards, 3 TD.
Stephania Bell's Health Outlook: Before the 2019 season, the Panthers were not concerned about Newton's shoulder injury that had led him to miss the last two games of the 2018 season and required surgery. He had diligently rehabilitated himself, worked on the little things to help him be a better pitcher (especially better than he had been when the shoulder was not cooperating, forcing him to literally squeeze the rest of his body to try to deliver the ball. ). He entered 2019 doing all the practice pitches he would need to do in a game.
Of course, once his left foot was injured, it was never the same. Although it was a stable midfoot injury, and therefore seemed to improve over time, ultimately it did not. Newton opted for surgery and underwent a modified (less complex) Lisfranc procedure. Given the coronavirus pandemic, all we have to do regarding his workouts is Newton's Instagram account, but that is actually a good indication that his foot is fully recovered.
Will Newton be able to put everything together on the field? I dont see why not. He is certainly willing to show that he still has it, and the recovery time of not playing most of last season certainly helps. Will you hold it? That is much more difficult to answer, because the Cam we know only plays in one way, and that physical contact combined with his history makes him a greater risk than if he were 10 years younger.