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 injury-ruined 2019 campaign followed by a lengthy wait to sign a contract, suggest he cannot be considered a lock to start ahead of second-year Jarrett Stidham. Patriots NFL Nation reporter Mike Reiss agreed, noting that both Newton and Stidham are wild cards and that he views it as “a true open competition.”
So, the question is, how do we adjust our thinking in fantasy?
Mike Clay’s fantasy outlook: For now, I’m projecting Newton for 13 starts and Stidham for three. That would assume a healthy Newton wins the competition, but it also hedges for both injury and the possibility that he simply isn’t the same player he was during his prime.
New England has called a pass-first offense during 11 of the past 13 seasons, but the tea leaves suggest a switch to a run-first attack in 2020. Those leaves include the Newton signing, the league’s heaviest financial investment in the guard position and a pair of third-round draft picks spent on tight ends. This likely conversion obviously takes away some appeal from top pass-catchers Julian Edelman, N’Keal Harry, James White and Mohamed Sanu Sr., though that’s mostly offset by a much more attractive quarterback depth chart.
That might seem like an odd thing to say about a quarterback more known for his rushing ability than his arm, but keep in mind that Newton had arguably his best season as a passer the last time he was healthy. During that 2018 campaign with the Carolina Panthers, Newton was more conservative (career-low 7.3 yards for average depth of throw), but that led to a career-high 68% completion percentage and a solid 7.2 YPA. Newton was still an effective rusher 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, carrying the ball only five times for negative-2 yards after ranking no lower than fourth among QBs in rushing attempts, yardage and touchdowns in each of the previous eight seasons.
Prior to 2019, Newton had missed only five of 128 possible games since entering the league, though it’s fair to wonder if 929 carries during the span have taken a toll.
All that being said, Newton very much needs to be on your radar as an upside flier in fantasy drafts. There’s a reasonable chance that a healthy Newton — who offers a very high floor because of his rushing ability, working with an elite coaching tandem of Bill Belichick and Josh McDaniels — can quickly rejoin the QB1 conversation. Even better, his average draft position is unlikely to get out of control considering the aforementioned question marks and the many safer options at the position. If Newton doesn’t win the job or struggles, you can easily cut bait with minimal value lost. However, if he returns to form, you have yourself a steal.
As for the other members of the New England offense, I’m not moving the needle much. Edelman, White and Sony Michel are fine mid-round targets, with Harry and Damien Harris intriguing late-round fliers. The tight ends can be ignored, as can Stidham, who should be on rosters in only two-QB and dynasty leagues.
2020 Cam Newton 13-start projection: 269-of-432, 2,972 yards, 17 TDs, 10 INTs, 71 carries, 358 yards, 3 TDs.
Stephania Bell’s health outlook: Heading into the 2019 season, the Panthers weren’t worried about Newton’s shoulder injury that had caused him to miss the final two games of the 2018 campaign and required surgery. He had rehabbed diligently, worked on the little things to help make him a better thrower (especially better than the one he had been when the shoulder was not cooperating, which had forced him to literally torque the rest of his body to try to deliver the ball). He entered 2019 making all the throws in practice that he would need to make in a game.
Of course, once he injured his left foot, he was never the same. Even though it was a stable, midfoot injury and therefore appeared as if it would get better with time, it ultimately did not. Newton opted for surgery, undergoing a modified (less complex) Lisfranc procedure. Given the coronavirus pandemic, all we have to go by as far as his workouts is Newton’s Instagram account, but that actually gives a pretty good indication that his foot is fully recovered.
Will Newton be able to put it all together on the field? I don’t see why not. He’s certainly out to prove that he has still got it, and the recovery time from not playing the majority of last season undoubtedly helps. Will he hold up? That’s much tougher to answer, because the Cam we know only plays one way — and that physical contact combined with his history makes him a higher risk than if he were 10 years younger.
Are long field goals next frontier for the Chiefs’ Harrison Butker? – Kansas City Chiefs Blog
It took many tries and a strong wind at his back, but Harrison Butker made a 77-yard field goal this spring while working out at a Kansas City-area park.
— Harrison Butker (@buttkicker7) April 1, 2020
It was the longest successful kick of Butker’s career, practice or otherwise, surpassing the 72-yarder he made in warm-ups before the Kansas City Chiefs‘ game last November in the altitude of Mexico City.
Consistency, not range, has already made Butker one of the most accomplished kickers in team history. Butker’s field goal percentage of 89.7 since joining the Chiefs in 2017 is the franchise’s highest ever.
Butker has only two of the Chiefs’ 15 longest field goals, however, both coming last season. He made a 56-yarder last December against the Bears in Chicago and a 54-yarder on a windy November day at home against the Minnesota Vikings.
But his 77-yard try, even under favorable conditions, makes it natural to wonder whether the next frontier for Butker is longer kicks, maybe even threatening the NFL record for longest field goal of 64 yards, set by Denver’s Matt Prater in 2013.
“In terms of the NFL record, there are a ton of kickers that have the leg to make a field goal … in a game situation,” Butker said. “It’s just, does the coach want to put the kicker out there, because if he misses, now the other team gets the ball with great field position? So you kind of have to get set up with end-of-half, end-of-game situations. I don’t think we’ve had that situation where it would have been that long of a field goal. But I think definitely when it’s warm out, I’d be prepared to make that kick.
“I feel super comfortable kicking from distance. Obviously, we’re not going to be kicking field goals from [77 yards] most likely in a game, but it’s going to help me a lot when it’s a 55-yarder, wind’s in your face in January and February. That’s what I’m training for, to be able to make those kicks.”
Butker has been a success since joining the Chiefs in the middle of the 2017 season, when he was signed off the practice squad of the Carolina Panthers. He made a game-winning 43-yard field goal with four seconds remaining on a Monday night against Washington in his NFL debut. He made 23 straight field goals at one point that season.
His longest field goal until late last season was a 54-yarder in 2018 against the Seattle Seahawks. He matched that last season against the Vikings on a day that then-Chiefs punter Dustin Colquitt, who served as Butker’s holder, called one of the trickiest of his career because of the wind.
“For kicking, in general, it’s hard to do that on days like [that],” Colquitt said of Butker, who also made a 44-yarder on the game’s final play to give the Chiefs a three-point victory. “He stuck with it, kept his head down, hit two big kicks for us.”
His success on kicks like that have the Chiefs warming to the idea of allowing Butker to attempt longer kicks, like the one he made at Soldier Field.
“It was a great kick,” special teams coordinator Dave Toub said of Butker’s 56-yard field goal in Chicago. “To do that in Soldier Field — I mean, the weather wasn’t brutal, but it wasn’t perfect, either. It was really impressive, what he did. That’s going to help him as far as confidence goes and going forward into the playoffs, that being the longest one that he has made in a game. He’s done a lot longer in practice. But in a game situation, that was his best. That was impressive.”
Butker has shown leg strength during in-game kickoffs. He hit an 80-yard kickoff last year in the playoffs against the Texans, a kick that was tied for longest in the NFL in 2019. Butker said he was better prepared to make longer kicks than he was when he joined the Chiefs.
“One thing I struggled with in Carolina and then in the 2017 season is I was getting under the sweet spot a lot, so the ball was spinning a ton,” he said. “It was going straight, which was great. I made a lot of kicks in 2017. [But] I had a 49-yarder against the Texans in 2017 where the ball barely went over the crossbar. So I had enough leg to make the kicks, but I’m not quite hitting the sweet spot. In 2018, I made some adjustments. I went from a jab two-step kicker to just a two-step kicker. … It wasn’t until probably 2019 that I felt super comfortable with it.
“I think 2019 was my best year. In 2017, I had a ton of kicks from 30 to 40 yards. In 2019, I had one missed kick under 40 and then I had like 17 kicks between 40 and 50 and was perfect on all of those, to my memory. Then I had a couple of misses from 50 and beyond, but I was really happy with how I performed in 2019. I obviously need to focus on the extra points.”
Just don’t look for any 77-yard field goal tries. He’ll leave those for offseason practice and windy days.
“In the offseason, that’s kind of when you’re messing around a little bit,” Butker said. “Typically, in a normal practice, I would never go back to that distance. I think when you start getting 77 yards, you’re doing some different things with your technique to get the ball as far as you can.
“I just kept pushing the ball back, and no, I wasn’t very accurate from back there, but I made one and it kind of went viral on social media. That was pretty fun to do.”
Patriots can’t lose with incentive-laden deal for Cam Newton – New England Patriots Blog
If Newton is healthy, and performs at the high level he did when he won NFL MVP and led the Carolina Panthers to Super Bowl 50, he could be the Patriots’ starting quarterback and put them back into the conversation as one of the AFC’s elite teams.
If his previously injured foot doesn’t respond well, or his performance and fit in offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels’ system doesn’t measure up, there’s limited financial pain for the team in quickly moving on.
So with Newton willing to accept what the Patriots have to offer — a low-cost chance to battle with 2019 fourth-round pick Jarrett Stidham and 11-year veteran Brian Hoyer to be Brady’s replacement — it adds a stick of dynamite to what was already a compelling situation.
The Patriots have been high on Stidham, while some on the club have also acknowledged there’s always a blind spot with a young signal-caller until he actually plays. So now they protect themselves more at the game’s most important position, increasing competition, and seeing if Stidham rises up.
Meanwhile, Newton could have considered waiting for an injury somewhere in the NFL with more of a clear path to start. But his decision to come to New England on a prove-it type of deal reflects a desire to compete, which has to be appealing to coach Bill Belichick, who often says nothing is given and players ultimately earn their roles through their performance.
Belichick has always had respect for Newton as a competitor.
“When you’re talking about mobile quarterbacks, guys that are tough to handle, tackle, can throw, run, make good decisions — I mean, I would put Newton at the top the list,” Belichick said in 2017 prior to a game against the Panthers.
“Not saying that there aren’t a lot of other good players that do that, but I would say, of all the guys we play or have played recently in the last couple of years, he’s the hardest guy to deal with. He makes good decisions, he can run, he’s strong, he’s hard to tackle. He can do a lot of different things, beat you in a lot of different ways. We saw that in the game down there in ’13, so I would put him at the top of the list. Not saying the other guys aren’t a problem, because they are, but he’s public enemy No. 1.”
Can Newton can be that player in 2020, and also fit into the Patriots’ hard-driving culture?
His new teammates are intrigued to find out, with reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year Stephon Gilmore tweeting two eyes as the news broke Sunday night.
— The Gilly Lock (@BumpNrunGilm0re) June 29, 2020
Meanwhile, fellow cornerback Jason McCourty said on his “Double Coverage” podcast: “I’m excited. Bill always says it: ‘The goal for any good team is to have as many good players as possible.’ Cam Newton is a former MVP of this league, played in the Super Bowl, that caliber of a player. The better players we have in our locker room, the better we’re going to be able to go out there perform as a team.”
“I agree fully with you,” longtime captain Devin McCourty responded. “When you add a guy like Cam Newton, it makes our quarterback room even better. We’ve already spoken about it before — the poise, and the jump and the leap you expect for Stiddy to make. I think it will be interesting in training camp and competing, and all of that, that’s how we all get better. I would think adding him to the quarterback room with B. Hoyer, you have veterans in there, you have young guys in there, I think it will give us a really good chance to be good at that position.”
McCourty added one more thought: “It will be a fun year, if the year goes as expected and we have a season.”
New England Patriots fined $1.1 million, lose draft pick in film crew fallout
The NFL fined the New England Patriots $1.1 million and took away a third-round pick in the 2021 draft among punishments for their television crew’s filming the field and sideline during a Dec. 8 game between the Cincinnati Bengals and Cleveland Browns,
In addition, the Patriots’ television production crews will not be allowed to shoot any games during the 2020 season, and senior club officials will undergo required training on league operation and game policies.
NFL spokesperson Michael Signora confirmed the punishments on Sunday night after ESPN broke the news.
The NFL also banned David Mondillo, who was suspended by the team at the time of the NFL investigation, from NFL facilities until further notice. Prior to the league’s discipline, Mondillo was terminated by the Patriots.
The Patriots admitted that their production crew inappropriately filmed the field and sideline. The crew was credentialed by the Browns to shoot video for a Patriots web series called “Do Your Job,” but the Patriots did not inform the Bengals or the NFL, which they called an “unintended oversight.”
“The sole purpose of the filming was to provide an illustration of an advance scout at work on the road,” a Patriots statement said at the time. “There was no intention of using footage for any other purpose.”
The Patriots also said the production crew, which included independent contractors who shot the video, is not part of New England’s football operation.
A Patriots spokesperson confirmed the team won’t contest the penalties.
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