The New England Patriots are among the many teams entering the NFL offseason with a question mark at the quarterback position. The Rams, Lions, Eagles, and Colts have found clarity over the last two weeks in that regard. The offseason is long and many more quarterbacks will likely end up in new uniforms over the next six months, as Adam Schefter predicted.
New England had Cam Newton last year. He is now a free agent and did not play very well as a Patriot. He threw more interceptions than touchdown passes and everything was basically downhill after his stellar Week 2 performance against the Seattle Seahawks. In summary, Newton looked like a shell of his former self, for one reason or another.
Rumor had it that the Patriots and Newton were not likely to reunite in 2021 shortly after the 2020 season came to a close. That meant that New England would have to search far and wide to find a new quarterback given Jarrett Stidham showed nothing to suggest he could handle the job last year and they have no other QBs on the roster. The Athletic's Jeff Howe reported the Pats were in on both of the most recent signal-caller transactions-- the Matthew Stafford-Jared Goff swap and the Carson Wentz trade. But, as Howe puts it, they were "thwarted" in their efforts to acquire any of those three because of inflated prices in a seller's market.
"The New England Patriots have been aggressively perusing the quarterback trade market, but they have so far been thwarted by inflated prices in an offseason that is currently siding with the sellers. Bill Belichick and the Patriots, in pursuit of an upgrade at the position, have had conversations regarding every potential trade target in the league, according to sources."
"So far, the Patriots have been disciplined in their approach. They spoke to the Lions about Stafford and to the Eagles regarding Wentz, but the Patriots weren’t serious contenders for either quarterback due to the asking price."
New England wasn't just swinging for the fences, though. Howe reports in the same article that the Patriots have called every team with a quarterback that might be available, whether it be the Raiders and Marcus Mariota or the Texans and Deshaun Watson. So far, of course, those efforts have not borne fruit of any kind. But Stafford and Wentz had the highest ceilings of the available quarterbacks other than Watson, and the Patriots are unlikely to be in the running for Houston's superstar because of their lack of assets compared to other potential offers.
Which brings us back to Newton. Newton went on a podcast today and said he would definitely be open to returning to New England next season, while also noting that the lack of training camp combined with his missed time due to his own COVID diagnosis really threw a wrench into his ability to fully grasp the team's notoriously complicated offense.
The Patriots might have to bring back Newton, warts and all, because they don't really have any other options if they want to be competitive next season. Their first-round pick, slotted at No. 15, isn't high enough to take one of the four best QB prospects in this year's draft barring an unforeseen slide by one of those prospects. The best QBs that were both available on the trading block and realistic to acquire are now gone.
Simply put, New England doesn't have a swing-for-the-fences option available anymore. The worst thing that could happen if they brought Newton back is another .500 year. The best-case scenario is that he knows the offense inside and out with one season under his belt and he can bring the team to the postseason. Then who knows what happens next offseason? This one shows us how quickly situations can change around the NFL. The floodgates have been opened and who knows what kind of player movement it might inspire, especially at quarterback.
Newton wasn't great last season. He wasn't even good. He looked like a shell of his former self. But that shell is still better than some of the possible QBs the Patriots can feasibly trade for, and Newton's ceiling is still high. It wouldn't be the most exciting development, especially compared to what's already transpired since the Super Bowl ended, but Newton running it back in New England may be what the Patriots are forced to settle for. As far as settling goes, it wouldn't be all that bad, either.