The Patriots made an astonishing decision Tuesday afternoon when they released quarterback Cam Newton.
Newton was embroiled in a starting quarterback battle with Mac Jones. The veteran appeared to have the advantage for much of the offseason, but at the end of the preseason Jones quickly regained some ground. The rookie ended up winning the starting position in a move that came as a slight surprise.
But Newton being released as part of this decision? It was shocking, especially after Bill Belichick complimented Newton on Tuesday morning.
“Certainly he started at a much higher point than last year”, Belichick said of Newton to journalists. “I’m definitely going in the right direction.”
So why did Belichick and the Patriots outright release Newton? Here’s everything you need to know about New England’s decision to take down Newton.
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Why did the Patriots release Cam Newton?
There are several reasons Cam Newton was released, as reported by Pro Football Network’s Adam Beasley. They were largely related to his performance and vaccination status.
There wasn’t just one reason Cam Newton left. It was a combination of at least three, I was told: the emergence of Mac Jones, Newton’s vaccination stance (which made a bit of noise behind the scenes) and the uninspiring performance. of Cam this summer.
– Adam Beasley (@AdamHBeasley) August 31, 2021
Doug Kyed of Pro Football Focus added another reason: Newton’s “locker room command” could have created an odd dynamic with him serving as Jones’ replacement.
A few factors at play with Cam Newton’s release rather than keeping him as a Patriots backup: his locker room order and his vaccination status. Neither make him an ideal choice as a replacement behind a rookie QB.
– Doug Kyed (@DougKyed) August 31, 2021
Granted, these all played a role in Newton’s exit. That said, the main reason for Belichick’s decision probably started on the pitch during his duel with Jones.
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Mac Jones and Cam Newton’s pre-season performances
Jones and Newton were roughly tied in two preseason games in terms of performance, but Jones got the upper hand in the team’s last preseason game against the Giants.
While Newton had a poor 2 of 5 performance for 10 yards and an interception, Jones had a 10 of 14 for 156 yards and a touchdown. He made several quality throws that showed the strength of his arms during the contest.
Jones’ accuracy was also excellent during the game, as it has been the entire preseason. In fact, only 6.3% of his passes thrown in the Patriots’ three games were deemed unattainable / inaccurate by Pro Football Focus. It was the best score in the league.
Lowest percentage of unattainable / inaccurate throws this preseason (min. 45 attempts), by @PFF :
Mac Jones (6.3%)
– Austin Gayle (@PFF_AustinGayle) August 30, 2021
Perhaps that was the biggest difference for Jones. After all, his numbers and Newton’s were relatively similar given that Jones played more than twice as many records as Newton. But Jones was more specific and managed to avoid returning the ball.
This is – in addition to his consistent play in all three preseason games versus Newton’s top-to-bottom performances – the reason Jones won the starting position. And that helped push Newton towards the list bubble.
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Is Cam Newton vaccinated?
Cam Newton is not vaccinated, and a COVID-related incident may have played a role in knocking him off the Patriots roster.
Newton missed five days of training last week with what he and the team called a “misunderstanding” of the NFL’s COVID protocols. He had attended an approved offsite medical appointment and although he was tested for COVID on the day of his appointment, he was not tested at the Patriots facility. It was a violation of the league’s COVID protocols.
At the time, NFL Network’s Mike Giardi noted that this was causing “a level of frustration” for the team. It gave Jones a chance to claim the starting position.
According to the sources, there is a level of frustration internally with Cam Newton’s situation. A senior member of the organization believes it “opened” a window of opportunity for rookie Mac Jones. The team is training today and tomorrow with the NYG, b4 Newton can come back.
– Michael Giardi (@MikeGiardi) August 24, 2021
Jones took advantage of the opportunity, which led to the Patriots leaving Newton on Tuesday morning.
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Did the Patriots try to trade Cam Newton?
The Patriots haven’t tried to trade Cam Newton, as Pro Football Talk reports.
According to a source, the Patriots didn’t try to trade Cam Newton before deciding to cut him.
– ProFootballTalk (@ProFootballTalk) August 31, 2021
This is another surprise. Newton may not have been perfect this preseason, but he showed some starting ability against the Eagles. He was also a bit cheap, as his contract had a base value of just $ 3.5 million.
That said, Newton’s deal could be worth as much as $ 14 million via incentives, so perhaps teams looking for a save would have been reluctant to take the risk of Newton winning those incentives. Or maybe the Patriots wanted to rip off the band-aid and move forward with Jones as a starter.
Either way, New England didn’t try to trade Newton. The team simply let him go.