One MVP out, another MVP in. That's one way of looking at the Patriots' acquisition of Cam Newton after the departure of Tom Brady shook up the city of Boston months earlier.
It was the type of signing that made fans of 31 NFL teams sigh, roll their eyes, and presumptively think 'here we go again.' But there are definitely doubters out there who don't believe Newton will ever return to his 2015 MVP form -- or anywhere near it -- and that he may not even play all that much in 2020. One AFC East head coach said that he doesn't think Newton will be the Week 1 starter. One of our NFL insiders at RADIO.COM Sports, former offensive lineman Ross Tucker, echoed that sentiment and went so far as to say the team would be 'better off' if Jarrett Stidham won the job.
But another NFL insider here at RADIO.COM Sports is on the other end of the spectrum when it comes to his expectations for Cam. Former NFL GM Michael Lombardi lauded the Pats' signing of Cam Newton, mentioning that the motivation, the system and the potential upside for a big year are all in place.
"He doesn't want anything, he doesn't want to be given the starting job," Lombardi said in the latest episode of "The GM Shuffle" podcast. "He wants to earn it... he's got this giant chip on his shoulder. The former general manager of the New York Giants used to say all the time that the best soldiers are the hungry soldiers. Football players are like soldiers, they're best when they're hungry. Well, he's hungry."
What could that hunger translate to? Lombardi predicts a 'guaranteed' 3,600 yards passing along with 600 yards rushing at the 'minimum.'
"You talk about 2015, great, that was the MVP season, but if you really study 2018 and examing those eight games... he was sensational," Lombardi said. "In '18, he threw 15 touchdown passes and four interceptions before the shoulder injury... he was electrifying. He was only sacked 12 times in those eight games which was really low for the Carolina Panthers with their offensive line.
"So book those numbers and then add in the Josh McDaniels factor... you're probably looking at 4,200 yards, you're probably looking at 750 rushing... and if he stays healthy, he's going to get Comeback Player of the Year."
Where is Newton's hunger coming from? According to Lombardi, it may stem from the fact that so many teams passed on Newton without even reaching out with an offer. New England was the only team that actually extended an offer, though ESPN's Adam Schefter does say that the Browns were in some sort of talks with the QB.
"He's in the right framework, too... he's in the right frame of mind to dominate," Lombardi said. "He wants to prove to all these people, 'how stupid are you? Ryan Pace, pay attention, you're a dumb f***. David Caldwell, you're really a dumba**... Anthony Lynn, Tom Telesco, you stay with Tyrod Taylor and you don't sign me? Huh. Seriously?' It's comical."
Instead of Newton, the Bears opted to sign Nick Foles to a lucrative deal, who Lombardi thinks is a good guy to bring in if they truly believe in Mitch Trubisky's potential to be a great starting quarterback.
"Foles is such a nice kid," Lombardi said. "He's just too nice of a kid and so he comes in, he's going to play nice. He's never stared 16 games either. No one ever analyzes Nick Foles, they just remember the Super Bowl run, but the guy's never started 16 games in his NFL career, so he's the perfect guy to bring in for MVP Mitch."
Still, given how little money the Patriots signed Newton for, Lombardi is critical of the other teams that opted to pass on him and called it a "no brainer" for the Patriots to bring him in. His "incentive-laden" deal can pay him up to $7.5 million, a figure that has drawn comments from at least one NFL star.
But instead of seeing this relatively cheap contract for Cam as a bad thing, Lombardi thinks it's a good omen for things to come.
"I get what Richard Sherman's saying... there's no excuse for Chase Daniel and some of these other guys making more than Cam, but Cam's going to get his pay day next year," Lombardi said. "It's somewhere, whether it's in New England, whether it's somewhere else."
Lombardi also commented on how the Patriots' situation isn't only one that could benefit Newton, given a stronger offensive line and the offensive mind of Josh McDaniels, but that Newton can also help to make the Patriots a better team as a whole.
"I think what we saw last year with Tom Brady, he really didn't trust anybody other than Julian Edelman," Lombardi said. "He was going to force the ball to Julian Edelman no matter what he did.
"You're watching the tape and saying 'Why doesn't he throw the ball the N'Keal Harry? Why doesn't he throw the ball to Jakobi Meyers? Why isn't he throwing the ball to the tight end... the guy's wide open, is it not his read?' And really it comes back to a lack of trust."
Whereas this lack of trust may have plagued Tom Brady's 2019 season with the Patriots, like how it may be affecting Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay (Lombardi draws the parallel to his low level of trust in anyone but Davante Adams), the door is wide open for several Patriots receivers with Cam Newton in town.
"I think with Cam now, all of a sudden, you'll see N'Keal Harry having a much better season. I think you'll see other plays -- Mohamed Sanu -- you'll see other guys develop along those lines because I really believe that Cam will throw the ball."