No matter if they win or lose, the Patriots' 2020 season will come to a close in Week 17. For the first time since the 2008 season, the NFL playoffs will be held without Bill Belichick lurking on the sideline and the hoodie is now tasked with trying to rebuild his roster to bring New England back into contention as quickly as 2021. One of the first things on Belichick's to-do list -- if not the first -- is to address the quarterback position, which is something I touched upon earlier this week. Names like Jimmy Garoppolo and Matthew Stafford should be monitored closely by the Patriots in the event that either quarterback shakes loose from his current situation.
And while I believe the answer for New England's QB1 in 2021 is not currently residing in Foxborough, that doesn't automatically eliminate Cam Newton from the running either.
By almost every passing measure, Newton has come up short during his first season with the Patriots. He's been able to maintain his threat as a runner as evidence by his 12 rushing scores this season, but Newton's passing marks are less than desirable. His 65.4 completion percentage is strong in number only as the club has limited his attempts throughout the year. Meanwhile, the 172.5 passing yards per game, five touchdowns, and 10 interceptions aren't what you're looking for in a playoff-caliber starter. Throughout the course of the year, there have also been times where a 10-point deficit feels like a 35-point deficit because of the Patriots' inability to move the chains through the air.
While you could point to this failure in the passing game to Newton simply not having the arm ability anymore, there's also a case to be made where the lack of offseason preparation to fully grasp the offense severely put the former MVP behind the eight-ball.
"My only regret was I wish I had more time to dissect what I was actually getting in to," Newton told reporters on Thursday when asked what he wished had gone differently for the Patriots in 2020. "I've been in this league long enough to kind of always downplay, like, 'Man, we don't need preseason. We don't need OTAs. We're ready to go.' Yeah, maybe if I was still in the system I came from. But learning this system, you just need more time, you need more real reps to kind of go through because there's only but so much you can kind of make up.
"You could put the eyelashes on. You could do your eyebrows. You could put your lipstick on. The mascara and the lip liner. But sooner or later, it's going to rain and the real true you will show. And unfortunately it showed -- not necessarily in ways that I wanted to."
Bill Belichick also seemed to co-sign that summation when asked about it on Friday.
"I agree with what Cam said," the head coach noted. "I wish we had more time together. I wish as a team we had more time with our team and with a lot of guys, especially new players. So, yeah, I agree with that."
If Belichick truly does believe that more time with Newton last offseason would have made a big difference in how New England's current 6-9 season has shaken out, it does beg the question of whether or not he'd be willing to give it a second chance in 2021. After all, Belichick has shown us this year that he's willing to stand by Newton even during the mightiest of struggles. If he's able to revamp the roster and see a number of players who have either suffered an injury or opted out return, it's possible that Belichick could see Newton as part of the solution rather than something he needs to drastically upgrade.
Again, this isn't my Plan A, B, C, or D for New England, but Belichick's loyalty to Newton has been noticeably strong throughout this season and it wouldn't be totally shocking if that loyalty bled into the offseason either.
Before we jump into the rest of our news and notes, here's how you can watch Sunday's contest against New York.
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Edelman to miss 2020 finale
Bill Belichick confirmed on Friday that Julian Edelman, who has been on injured reserve since suffering a knee injury in late October, will not be activated for the 2020 finale. The veteran receiver did return to practice prior to New England's matchup with Miami a few weeks ago but wasn't activated.
After the Patriots were officially eliminated from the playoffs, Edelman has yet to return to practice. Belichick noted that Edelman didn't suffer a setback saying, "I would just say he just wasn't ready to play and won't be ready to play."
That could simply mean that the Patriots had Edelman take his foot off the gas on trying to return now that they were simply playing out the stretch. While Edelman is technically under contract for 2021, it's safe to say that his future is up in the air as he'll be 35 years old at the start of next season.
"I think it's way too early to start talking about next year," Belichick said when asked about envisioning Edelman back with the team next year.
If Edelman does hang 'em up or is on another roster come Week 1 next year, he will have closed the book on one of the best careers that a wide receiver has ever had in Foxborough. He's currently No. 4 all-time in Patriots history in receiving yards and No. 2 all-time in receptions. He also helped the franchise win three Super Bowl titles, including Super Bowl LIII where he earned MVP honors.
Aguayo's arrival bad news for Rohrwasser
This got lost in the shuffle last weekend leading up to New England's Monday matchup with the Buffalo Bills, but it's worth noting that the Patriots decided to sign kicker Roberto Aguayo to the practice unit. Aguayo has been out of the league for nearly three seasons after being a second-round pick of the Buccaneers in the 2016 draft out of Florida State.
"Well, he's a pretty impressive guy, so we wanted to work with him," Belichick said Wednesday. "So, we'll work with him here and see how it goes."
Two things make this move noteworthy. The first is that it could give the organization some insurance in the event that Nick Folk leaves in free agency this offseason after a career-year in Foxborough. The second, and more alarming, is that this could speak to the lack of development that 2020 fifth-round pick Justin Rohrwasser is having on the practice squad. This season was meant to be a developmental year for the Marshall product and if the club is bringing in other options, that may mean the Patriots have missed with that fifth-rounder heading into 2021. Again, this is a small move, but something to keep an eye on heading into next year.
Matthew Slater uncertain about 2021
"You know, I don't know," Matthew Slater told reporters on Wednesday when asked about a return in 2021.
Slater is the longest-tenured member of the Patriots after putting a bow on his 13th season with the club on Sunday. The Pro Bowl special teamer, who is under contract through next season, noted that he'll take time this offseason to really figure out his future plans. That said, he did not that if he does play in 2021 it'll only be for New England.
"That's something that [my wife] Shahrzad and I are going to have to pray about and we are going to have to see what we feel like is best for our family," Slater said. "And obviously there's got to be a desire from the organization to want me back here. I don't see myself playing anywhere else. So we'll be praying about that, like we have been the last couple years. If we feel the Lord is telling us to do something, we want to be obedient in that way. I'm certainly thankful for all the things that I've been able to continue to do off the football field – relationally, and pouring into guys, and that will all factor in. And then obviously, physically and opportunity wise. We'll cross that road when we get to it. I think now it's important, as I mentioned in the last question, to finish out what we started here in 2020 and see where we are when the time comes."
If Slater does ultimately walk away, the Patriots will be without one of their most impactful leaders throughout the dynasty.