In a matter of hours, the unthinkable saga playing out for the New England Patriots will move into act two. The first? It has been both wounding and incomprehensible for the New England fan base — with the most hurtful dagger yet coming in the form of a Tom Brady Instagram picture in which he not only signs his Tampa Bay Buccaneers contract, but smiles as he twists the knife.
But there is a second act of this saga that’s about to open. A development that only a few years ago would have been almost as insane as Brady leaving New England.
Not only are the Patriots about to get a shot at signing Cam Newton, the opportunity will come completely free of draft pick compensation.
Nothing. Nada. Just the risk of a short-term “prove it” deal — which will be available for Newton following an inevitable release by the Carolina Panthers. That’s how depressed his value is after a spate of injuries have thrown the remainder of a once-promising MVP career into question. As of Friday, Newton was in the same drifting boat as Andy Dalton and Jameis Winston. According to multiple league sources who spoke to Yahoo Sports, the trio has failed to find traction among suitors as potential starting quarterback options.
In Newton’s case, he might be the ray of serendipity needed to break the clouds descending over the Patriots after the loss of Brady.
Is it a perfect match? Certainly not — particularly when you consider that New England goes a long way to avoid players who can’t seem to stay healthy. Even so, Newton fits the mold of depressed asset the Patriots are occasionally willing to pull off the scrap heap. Most especially when that asset has had flashes of brilliance that lean into some offensive creativity. Think running back Dion Lewis, whose career was in injury shambles before the Patriots saw his speed and mismatch potential as a utility back. Lewis was cheap, available and extremely useful, which is pretty much the preferred wheelhouse of New England in the offseason.
Newton is about to be available. He’s certainly going to be cheaper than anyone could have expected. Now all he has to do is convince the Patriots that he’s still a useful player — which is a very fair question considering teams are still unsure about his throwing shoulder and lower body health.
There’s also a pressing question about New England’s plan following Brady’s departure. A team source who spoke with Yahoo Sports on Thursday was unequivocal on one point: There is still a sense of shock amongst some in the building who believed the impasse between Brady and the Patriots would be worked out — right up to the point that it became clear he’d reached terms with the Buccaneers. It wasn’t, and the resulting void now opens the question about what exactly head coach Bill Belichick is planning.
Will it be a tear-down and rebuild? Will it be a retool on the fly? And how much will Belichick’s age (he turns 68 next month) impact whether or not he’s looking for a seasoned veteran quarterback?
That all remain to be seen. But the Patriots haven’t called the Bengals on Dalton, heavily speculated as the potential go-to move if Brady departed. Is that because another option like Newton is about to come available? Only Belichick’s minuscule inner circle — or perhaps only Belichick himself — actually knows the answer to that.
But one thing shouldn’t be up for debate. Out of that trio of Newton, Dalton and Winston, there’s little denying that the one guy who’s most equipped to follow Brady and not be fazed is the same guy who has already been living under those expectations since he arrived in the NFL. That’s Newton.
Which isn’t to say Dalton is a bad option. He’s not. He’s just a different kind of option under the post-Brady microscope. Dalton is what he is — a good player who can be reliable in the right system, and who will likely stick around the league for another six or seven years, despite turning 33 this October.
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SOURCE: Yahoo Sports