Friday, July 24, 2020

Newton Offers Increased Optionality For Patriots’ Offense

Optionality is a financial term that, in short, is the value of additional optional investment opportunities available only after having made an initial investment, and with the recent signing of quarterback Cam Newton, the New England Patriots are suddenly lousy with those additional opportunities – not only in terms of cap dollars, but also on the playing field.

Most teams’ average investment on the quarterback position runs at about 16% of their cap space, which includes both the starter and the backup(s), but with Newton signing a bargain-basement contract, the Patriots’ investment of 1.5% is the greatest value in the league. Even if Newton reaches all of the incentives on his contract, the Patriots still come in at just a quarter of what other teams are spending.

Combined with the grievance relief that the team was granted from the league over the contracts of Aaron Hernandez and Antonio Brown, the Patriots suddenly find themselves with maneuverability in their cap space, opening up options on the free agent market, though they will most likely keep that money in reserve in hopes that Newton does reach those incentives.

Hopeful, because a successful Newton will likely mean success for the entire team.

As mentioned, optionality (in the context of football), isn’t limited to cap dollars, it also translates to the playing field as their investment in Newton expands the playbook in ways that have to have Belichick and offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels salivating…

…and also translates to Newton himself, who, with a successful season, can capitalize on the investment he’s made in himself by signing what amounts to a “Prove It” contract, opening up options and giving him leverage in contract negotiations beyond the 2020 season, be they with the Patriots or on the open market.

That said and true, many around the National Football League are still wondering why a former-MVP in the prime of his football career would settle for a one year contract from the New England Patriots with so little guaranteed money that it looks like a mid-round rookie deal.

Why, indeed!

The market for Newton wasn’t what one would call robust, but wouldn’t it have been better for him to wait until camps opened and the inevitable injuries occurred, prompting panicked head coaches to reach out to him with an exponentially lucrative offer?

In the short term, that probably would have been the way to go for the former first-round draft pick of the Carolina Panthers, but taking over for an injured starter has many different layers to it, and the process can become so convoluted that it becomes volatile at a point in his career where stability is paramount, lest he become sadly known as a journeyman…

…but in the long-term, New England looks to be the perfect place for the of-late, oft-injured trend-setter to not only revive what was once a spectacular career, but to also market his wares in order to gain a contract more befitting a player of his ability.

The Patriots have all the tools in place to help Newton do just that, and with their 2021 cap situation looking far better than this season’s dead-money albatross, Newton could easily find himself the franchise signal caller.

Newton is no dummy. He’s betting on himself to regain his pre-injury dynamism, and he chose the best place in the league to try and accomplish just that. Most athletes in his position and with such a celebrated past are looking for the best money and see themselves as a savior of sorts, stepping in with the mind-set that they alone can elevate the team to relevance…

…and it is far too early to project whether Newton fits into that category, especially given his flamboyancy and confidence, but the fact that he signed for the veteran minimum in guarantees gives one the impression that his only goal is to prove that he is still relevant.

Belichick is no dummy, either, as he likely sees Newton as a super-sized, more athletic version of his long-lost favorite son, Jimmy Garoppolo, whom he was building around to accommodate his skill set as the heir to Brady – so much so that even after Garoppolo was traded, the Dark Master continued along the chosen path, knowing that he was already locked in to a philosophy that would end the dynasty had he kept hold of Brady for a couple of more years.

We all saw it, right? The talent that Belichick built his 2019 team with didn’t jibe with Brady’s skill set at all, causing the greatest of all time to bitch and bristle about iron deficiency of the offense. It was purposeful on the part of Belichick, as he wasn’t about to be caught with his pants down once Brady left – and certainly not after the weird contract that Brady signed before the start of the season that left Brady with all of the leverage.

So Newton, assuming he beats out Jarrett Stidham for the starting role, steps into a ready-made offense that plays fabulously into his style.

It’s worth noting that neither Belichick nor McDaniels are likely to move off their spot so far as their conceptual philosophies are concerned, nor should they, but it goes to figure that if Newton is indeed under center, his presence allows for expansion and evolution of the concepts.

We are about to witness a much more diverse and open Patriots’ offense, perhaps one that is more powerful and exciting than in years past. Where the offense was a model of efficiency and consistency with Brady at the helm, with a ratio between the running game and passing game consistently around 40:60, with Newton calling the signals that should flatten out to a more even mixture…

…and not for any reason other than that’s the way Belichick’s team-building philosophy has been trending, and with Newton on board, the perfect storm exists for the Patriots’ dynastic ways to continue.

How? The answer to that question starts in my next article, which reveals the fact that the Patriots’ offensive line and zone-blocking scheme are perfect compliments to Newton’s skill set.