But are they really legitimate championship contenders in wake of the move?
While one could argue the Patriots should remain the favorites in the AFC East, a division they dominated for two decades with Tom Brady running their offense, they’ll still need to overcome the Kansas City Chiefs and Baltimore Ravens, among others, to reach Super Bowl LV.
This will be a tall task, but Mike Lombardi, a former NFL executive who worked alongside Bill Belichick with both the Patriots and Cleveland Browns, explained Monday on WEEI’s “Ordway, Merloni and Fauria” that he believes New England can hang with the top teams in the AFC.
“I think they can. I do,” Lombardi said. “I think a lot of it’s going to come down to their kicker and how good he is, right? Because he’s a rookie. It’s also going to come down to how good those young players are on defense. If they can add another defensive lineman or somebody in there to give them a little more girth, I think they can.”
Lombardi was higher on the Patriots than most even before they landed Newton, previously predicting New England would win more than nine games despite preparing to enter the 2020 season with Jarrett Stidham and Brian Hoyer atop the quarterback depth chart after Brady’s departure.
But the addition of Newton obviously changes everything. Sure, Newton dealt with injuries the past two seasons, limiting him to just 16 games for the Carolina Panthers, but he’s been an elite performer for most of his career when healthy, highlighted, of course, by his MVP campaign in 2015.
Perhaps Newton is exactly who the Patriots need to keep up with Patrick Mahomes, Lamar Jackson and the other talented quarterbacks across the AFC.