The Patriots fully expected to re-sign quarterback Tom Brady earlier this year. Instead, he signed with the Buccaneers, leaving the Patriots with only second-year quarterback Jared Stidham and journeyman Brian Hoyer at the position.
Sunday, they took a step toward alleviating their lack of an established starter by signing former NFL MVP Cam Newton to a one-year deal. ESPN first reported the deal.
Newton was released earlier this year by the Panthers in a salary cap-related move. But he also played just two games in 2019 because of a foot injury. Newton played in 14 games in 2018, but was largely ineffective in the second half after suffering a shoulder injury.
The 2015 NFL MVP after leading the Panthers to a 15-1 record and the Super Bowl, Newton, 31, has thrown 24 touchdown passes and 13 interceptions the past two seasons in 16 games. He played in just two games in 2019.
Perhaps just as importantly, his running has been affected. After rushing for a career-high 754 yards in 2017, Newton has 488 yards the past two seasons.
The news about the move to sign Newton came on the same day that news broke the Patriots were being fined $1.1 million by the NFL and docked a 2021 third-round draft pick for illegally taping the Bengals sideline during a game last season.
Newton has been continuing to rehabilitate his shoulder injury, which became an issue after the Panthers lost 52-21 to the Steelers in Pittsburgh Nov. 8 in 2018. Newton had thrown 17 touchdown passes and just four interceptions entering that game, but the Steelers sacked him five times in the blowout.
The Panthers, who had entered that game with a 6-2 record, failed to win Newton's final five starts after the loss to the Steelers before he was finally shut down for the final two weeks of the season.
Stidham completed 2 of 4 passes for 11 yards with an interception last season as Brady's backup. Hoyer, 35, who is in his third stint with the Patriots, completed 53.8 percent of his passes with four touchdown passes and four interceptions with the Colts last season.
This was the most sensible landing spot for Newton. The Patriots really don't have a starter and Newton, if healthy, is certainly that.
It's an incentive-laden deal, which means the Patriots aren't risking a lot if Newton still can't play. But it also gives Newton a chance to show he's healthy again.
Still, this doesn't necessarily move the needle much on New England's outlook this season. They're not a good team. The weapons aren't great. The defense suffered a number of losses. And Brady has moved on.