The quarterback battle in New England has officially ended. The Patriots have released veteran quarterback Cam Newton, CBS Sports NFL Insiders Jason La Canfora and Jonathan Jones have confirmed. This comes as all NFL teams are required to trim down their preseason rosters to 53 by today at 4 p.m. ET. With Newton gone, this now points to first-round rookie Mac Jones -- who competed with Newton this summer -- being named the starter to begin the 2021 regular season.
Patriots head coach Bill Belichick is expected to go forward with Jones for the team's Week 1 matchup against the Miami Dolphins -- and for the long term. Jones is the first quarterback taken in the first round by the franchise since Drew Bledsoe in 1993 and will be the first rookie quarterback to start in Week 1 for the Patriots since Bledsoe.
Jones had outplayed Newton in the preseason, so the move to make him the starting quarterback shouldn't come as a surprise. With Newton being released, the Patriots will go with Brian Hoyer as the backup quarterback to Jones. Jarrett Stidham, who had surgery for a back injury, is also on the roster and projected to be the No. 3 quarterback.
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Newton started 15 games in New England last season, the Patriots' first with a losing record since 2000. He completed 65.8% of his passes for 2,657 yards with eight touchdowns and 10 interceptions (82.9 rating). Newton rushed for 592 yards and 12 touchdowns, adding value with his legs instead of his arm. Newton scored multiple rushing touchdowns in four games in 2020, the most by any quarterback in the league. He also set the Patriots' record for most rushing attempts (137) and rushing yards (592) in a season. Newton is also the only quarterback to reach double-digit touchdowns in three separate seasons.
While Newton was a threat with his legs, shoulder issues and contracting COVID last season certainly hindered his performance. Newton ranked 34th out of 35 qualified quarterbacks in touchdown percentage (2.2) and 21st in yards per attempt (7.2) last season, numbers that don't necessarily mesh with a Josh McDaniels passing game.
Per SportsLine data scientist Stephen Oh, Belichick made the right decision starting Jones over Newton. The Patriots are projected to win 9.3 games with Jones starting 17 games compared to 9.1 with Newton.
w/ Cam Newton
w/ Mac Jones
The Newton era didn't last long in New England, as the Patriots didn't even give him an opportunity to earn his in-game roster bonus of $1.5 million -- a standard of Patriots contracts. New England will save just over $1.9 million in salary cap space with the release.
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The Mac Jones era begins in New England after the stunning Cam Newton release. How will the rookie perform this season? Download the CBS Sports app and get the latest news, insights, and surprising predictions from our team of experts. If you already have the app, make sure to favorite the Patriots to get the latest news quickly.