The Patriots are running it back with Cam Newton, at least as of now, but that doesn’t mean New England isn’t still smarting from Tom Brady’s departure and subsequent Super Bowl triumph.
While Brady celebrated his latest title with a watercraft parade and a boat-to-boat tossing of the most prized trophy in football, Robert Kraft’s Patriots sat at home, attempting to determine how they’d proceed in 2021. What followed was a flurry of free-agency spending, filling multiple holes across New England’s roster — except quarterback.
In that slot returns Newton on another one-year deal that will pay him more than he made in 2020, but doesn’t drive home any sense of long-term faith in him or the Patriots’ current state under center. Kraft admitted as much Wednesday.
“One way or another, we have to get that position solidified,” Kraft said, via NBC Sports Boston’s Phil Perry.
In what amounts to a bit of stating the obvious, yes, the Patriots have to figure out who they’re picking to be the long-term replacement for Brady. A pair of one-year deals with Newton isn’t that, and while it might answer the question under center in the short-term, the future remains murky.
Perhaps New England addresses quarterback in April’s draft. A 7-9 season left the Patriots at home during the postseason but also didn’t put New England in a prime spot to take a quarterback of the future, adding intrigue and dumping uncertainty on the team’s situation. At 15th overall, the Patriots are likely to be left out of the quarterback derby that many see coming in the top 10 picks — unless the guy they want slips to the middle of the opening round.
That’s a risk New England might be willing to take, because as the Patriots are currently constructed, they can be better than they were in 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic cost them a handful of contributors due to opt-outs and Newton was forced out early in the season. Newton’s absence in Week 4 knocked him off the tracks, leading to three straight losses and a significant decrease in production, and though he was able to rebound enough to help the Patriots finish 7-9, New England lost its mojo for most of the remaining slate.
“In fairness to Cam, I’m not sure he had the proper weapons around him last year,” Kraft said. “Then he got COVID and a lot of things happened.”
The Patriots will hope what they’ve done this offseason will prevent such an outcome in 2021, with Newton leading the way. Beyond that, though, there isn’t much to declare at this point. Plenty of work is left to be done, and down in Florida, Brady will be going about accomplishing his own goals, leaving his former franchise in the dust.
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