The New England Patriots drafted Mac Jones to be their quarterback of the future, but the rookie is not surprised that future will start in Week 1 of the NFL season. 

Jones beat out incumbent starter Cam Newton, who was released last week, and will be under center in Sunday's season opener against the Miami Dolphins. 

In an interview Tuesday with Boston radio station WEEI, Jones said he was "not really" caught off-guard when he learned in a team meeting that he had won the job. 

"I mean, like I always say, I prepare to be the starter and every day you come in and I got the chance to get a lot of reps, so nothing really changes," Jones said. "Just trying to be a good teammate.

"Trying to learn the plays every day and fix what I messed up on, listen to [offensive coordinator] Josh [McDaniels] and all the guys in the quarterbacks room, you just take their advice like I always have since I have been here.

"Like I said, nothing really changes. It’s exciting.”

Jones, who turned 23 on Sunday, led Alabama to the College Football Playoff national championship last season. He completed a record 77.4 per cent of his passes while throwing for 4,500 yards with 41 touchdowns and just four interceptions. 

While his resume was as impressive as any rookie's, the jump to the NFL can be daunting. Jones said Newton was a mentor to him throughout the off-season and training camp and was helpful throughout even though they were competing for a job. 

"Obviously Cam is a great guy, a great player, and hopefully he lands somewhere," Jones said. "I definitely learned a lot from him and I'm excited to keep learning from Brian [Hoyer] and everyone in the quarterback room."

Jones has been impressive throughout the pre-season, completing 36 of 52 passes (69.2 per cent) for 389 yards and a touchdown with no interceptions as the Patriots won all three of their games. 

Beginning Sunday, the stakes will be much higher, and Jones knows he will have to perform to maintain his role. That would be true anywhere in the NFL, but the pressure figures to be turned up given New England's championship pedigree. 

"It is a great opportunity and it’s something I have always wanted to do - be a NFL starting quarterback," Jones said. "But like I said, it doesn’t really mean much. The label is the label, but you’ve got to go out and produce and that’s just what it comes down to." 

Cam Newton has been cut by the New England Patriots, according to widespread reports, leaving Mac Jones as the new starting quarterback.

Newton and Jones had appeared in a battle for the starting spot ahead of the 2021 season.

On Sunday, after the Pats' final preseason game against the New York Giants, coach Bill Belichick refused to declare his starter, saying: "We still have decisions to make."

But Newton played just 39 snaps in preseason, also missing five days due to a "misunderstanding" relating to COVID-19 tests. He has now been released.

The decision clears a path for Jones, a first-round pick who led Alabama to the College Football Playoff National Championship this year.

Belichick will hope the 22-year-old can be a long-term replacement for Tom Brady, who left for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers before last season and went on to win the Super Bowl.

Newton was signed as a free agent to fill the void but completed just 65.8 per cent of his passes for 2,657 yards, eight touchdowns and 10 interceptions across 15 regular season games.

Although the 32-year-old did rush for 12 touchdowns – the most since 14 in his rookie year with Carolina Panthers in 2011 – even his underlying numbers through the air were poor.

Newton delivered a well-thrown, accurate ball on 76.1 per cent of his passes while averaging 7.07 air yards, below the 2020 league averages for quarterbacks with at least 100 attempts in both metrics (78.0 per cent and 8.16).

The departing three-time Pro Bowler was still handed a one-year contract ahead of Jones' arrival, but New England have clearly seen enough from the rookie in preseason.

At Alabama, Jones showed himself to be far more effective through the air than the man he will be replacing as starter. His 83.21 well-thrown percentage ranked third in the Power 5 in 2020.

Cam Newton will be away from the New England Patriots' facility until Thursday due to coronavirus protocols following a "misunderstanding" about daily testing.

Newton is seen as the frontrunner in his competition with rookie first-round pick Mac Jones to be the Patriots' starting quarterback.

However, he will now miss time as the Patriots take part in joint practices with the New York Giants ahead of their preseason finale on Sunday.

Explaining Newton's absence, a Patriots statement read: "On Saturday, Cam Newton travelled to a club-approved medical appointment that required him to leave the New England area. He received daily COVID tests, which were all negative. 

"Due to a misunderstanding about tests conducted away from NFL facilities, and as required by the NFL-NFLPA protocols, Cam will be subject to the five-day entry cadence process before returning to the facility. 

"Cam will continue participating virtually in team activities and return to the club facility on Thursday, August 26."

Only players who are not vaccinated against COVID-19 are subject to the five-day re-entry process.

Newton and Jones have each impressed in preseason for the Patriots and had little difficulty moving the ball against second and third-stringers in their 35-0 rout of the Philadelphia Eagles last time out.

Former MVP Newton went eight of nine for 103 yards and a touchdown while Jones completed 13 of his 19 pass attempts for 146 yards.

Newton missed one game last season after testing positive for COVID-19. Across 15 games, he completed 65.8 per cent of his passes for 2,657 yards, eight touchdowns and 10 interceptions.

While his numbers through the air were disappointing, he did rush for 12 touchdowns, Newton's most since his rookie year with the Carolina Panthers in 2011 (14).

The 2020 season saw Newton, according to Stats Perform data, perform below the average in well-thrown percentage and air yards per attempt. He delivered a well-thrown, accurate ball on 76.1 per cent of his passes while averaging 7.07 air yards. The league averages for quarterbacks with at least 100 attempts in those metrics in 2020 was 78.0 per cent well-thrown and 8.16 air yards.

Jones, who was third in the Power 5 with a well-thrown percentage of 83.21 in his final season at Alabama last year, now has a chance to further his claim to the starting job with extra practice reps as Newton sits out.

Bill Belichick is keeping everyone in the dark about who will start under center for the New England Patriots this season – including the quarterbacks themselves.

Cam Newton revealed on Monday he does not know whether he will be preferred to Mac Jones for the Week 1 game against the Miami Dolphins on September 12.

"No, [Belichick] hasn't said that," he said on Monday. "It is what it is.

"Every single day, I'm coming out here with the anticipation to just get better, and that's the only thing that I can do, so I can control that."

Newton is returning in 2021 after a difficult first year with the Patriots following Tom Brady's departure for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

The former Carolina Panthers QB, who was the MVP in 2015, threw for 2,657 yards and eight touchdowns – his lowest career marks across a full season – as well as 10 interceptions.

Starting 15 games after seeing his final campaign in Carolina disrupted by injury, Newton's arm appeared to be impacted as he threw for just 7.07 air yards on average.

His 103 carries excluding scrambles led the NFL at his position, but his 4.06 yards per carry were comfortably below average.

Newton now has competition from Jones, who was selected with the 15th overall pick after leading Alabama to the College Football Playoff National Championship title.

Jones put up 4,500 yards, 41 TDs and only four picks, ranking first among Power 5 QBs in completion percentage (79.1) and third in well-thrown percentage (83.2).

The 22-year-old was also below par in air yards (8.52) and yards per carry (2.09), however.

Newton is widely expected to start ahead of Jones for now, but the three-time Pro Bowler understands the reasons for such questions.

"I don't take it personal," Newton said. "I just want you guys to understand everything you know I know. There's no hidden motives or things like that.

"I do know those things like that I can't worry about, because each and every day I don't necessarily care about who's starting.

"I mostly care about making sure I put the best product out there for me. I know Mac is feeling the same, and I know Brian [Hoyer] is feeling the same way, and everyone else, going down each and every position.

"As far as Week 1, we have so much to worry about prior to Week 1; that's where my focus is right now."

Mac Jones vowed to do things his way rather than by the Tom Brady playbook as he teamed up with Bill Belichick at the New England Patriots.

The 22-year-old Jones led Alabama to a national championship in the 2020 season and joins the Patriots after being taken with the 15th pick in the NFL Draft.

As a quarterback linking up with Belichick, who had Brady as his favoured signal caller for 19 years, Jones has a lot to live up to.

First, he has to dislodge Cam Newton though, so Jones is determined to play according to his own design and his personal strengths rather than look to copy anyone else.

Asked about Brady, Jones said: "I just love watching him, how he manoeuvres through the pocket and stuff. But for me it's just being myself and being my own player and obviously he did great things for New England and I'm just looking forward to going in there and working.

"I've watched all the Super Bowls, regardless of the team, so it was awesome. Obviously, Tom and the New England Patriots were in a lot of them growing up, so I got a chance to watch them and I just like good football in general."

Jones said he had watched previous Patriots games during the draft process, to get a firm grip of what makes the team tick.

Newton replaced Brady as Belichick's starting quarterback last season and has signed on for this year too, but his position looks set to come under threat in 2021 from Jones and Jarrett Stidham. The Patriots finished with a 7-9 record in 2020, while Brady led the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to Super Bowl glory.

Veteran coach Belichick, who described Jones as "a smart kid", said the process of getting the new recruit ready for the rigours of the NFL would "take a lot of time".

"Cam's our quarterback," Belichick said. "Whatever position, whatever time Jarrett or Mac are ready to challenge and compete, then we'll see how that goes. But right now, Mac, he's just got a lot of learning in front of him."

Jones would not disagree with that perspective, wary of pushing himself to the front of the queue before time.

"Cam's awesome," Jones said, "and I've only heard great things when talking to people that I know from the Patriots about how great of a guy he is and how much everyone loves him.

"He just has fun with it, and I do too, so hopefully we can kind of have fun together and I'll help him out. It's his show and I'm just there to support him and then kind of just help out the team in whatever way I can."

Jones excelled in his only year as a starter at Alabama, completing 77.4 per cent of his passes for 4,500 yards with 41 touchdowns and only four interceptions.  He was one of three finalists for the 2020 Heisman Trophy, which went to his teammate DeVonta Smith.

Jones had been tipped in some quarters to join the San Francisco 49ers, but they plumped for Trey Lance instead with the third overall pick.

"I feel like, secretly, I really wanted to go to the Patriots all along, so I'm actually really happy that it happened," Jones said. "But it doesn't really matter.

"You get picked. You've got to take the opportunity and take advantage of it and learn the new system, learn the new coaches, learn the new culture, and coach Belichick's done a great job establishing that throughout his time in New England and I've just got to learn how to be a great teammate and do my job and stick to what they're telling me to do."

Bill Belichick has his next quarterback, as the New England Patriots selected Mac Jones with the 15th pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. 

The QB will seem like a natural fit for Belichick's system in New England after leading Alabama to a national championship in 2020. 

That should temper any disappointment Jones might feel in dropping to the 15th pick after some had speculated he might go as high as third overall. 

Jones excelled in his only year as a starter at Alabama, completing 77.4 per cent of his passes for 4,500 yards with 41 touchdowns and only four interceptions. 

He was one of three finalists for the 2020 Heisman Trophy, which ended up going to his teammate DeVonta Smith. 

Now the question is how quickly he will take over the starting job in New England, who went 7-9 last season with Cam Newton at the position after Tom Brady left to join the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. 

Newton re-signed with the Patriots for 2021, but Jones will be seen as the heir to Brady, who teamed with Belichick to win six Super Bowl titles in 20 seasons together. 

The selection would seem to eliminate the possibility of Jimmy Garoppolo returning to New England, which had been a popular subject of speculation in recent months. 

 

Cam Newton is returning to the New England Patriots on a one-year contract.

The former NFL MVP spent the 2020 season with New England, who went 7-9 in a disappointing first year after the departure of Tom Brady.

Quarterback Newton often struggled in a new offense with a poor supporting cast that had also hindered Brady in his last season with the Pats.

However, he will get the chance to improve in 2021 after agreeing a new deal with the team ahead of free agency, according to reports from NFL Network and ESPN.

Newton's deal is reportedly to be worth up to $14million, having surprisingly agreed to a $1m contract last year.

At that price he still represents a more affordable option after a flurry of QB moves earlier in the offseason saw Matthew Stafford, Jared Goff and Carson Wentz find new teams.

The renewal of Newton ends speculation he will link up with the Washington Football Team, who are led by his former coach at the Carolina Panthers, Ron Rivera.

With the Buffalo Bills reaching the AFC Championship Game and the Miami Dolphins rebuilding quickly with extensive draft capital, New England are suddenly under pressure in the AFC East.

And the scrutiny on their performances in 2021 will intensify after Brady won the Super Bowl with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

This move sees the Pats secure a starting QB ahead of free agency but will not preclude them from exploring other options at the position, according to reports.

Newton, 31, played 15 games (7-8) for New England – missing just one due to coronavirus - after injuries restricted him to playing only twice in his last of nine seasons with Carolina.

He threw for eight touchdowns to 10 interceptions with 2,657 yards through the air, though he did add 592 yards and 12 scores on the ground.

Newton also caught a TD pass from his leading receiver Jakobi Meyers in a win over the New York Jets.

After a painful year, the Patriots go into the offseason with Newton signed, one of the best salary cap situations in the league and the number 15 pick in the 2021 NFL Draft.

Another offseason sees another scramble for quarterbacks in the NFL.

Last year, Tom Brady was among those on the move and he ended the 2020 season with his first Super Bowl title in Tampa Bay and seventh in total.

Already in 2021 there have been significant deals at the position again, including the Los Angeles Rams' big play for Matthew Stafford, deeming him a significant upgrade on the expensive, underperforming Jared Goff.

There are big names remaining on the board, though, and we take a look at the state of play.

 

DESHAUN WATSON

It is not every day a QB of Watson's quality becomes available – and the Houston Texans might still argue he is not. But the 25-year-old was bogged down by a poor team last year, finishing 4-12 despite leading the league in overall passing yards (4,823).

Watson wants out, and the Texans would be well advised to listen to any serious offers if the alternative is to let one of the league's top talents sit on a massive contract.

The asking price will surely be high. Stafford, 33, threw for 4,084 yards, 26 touchdowns and 10 interceptions in 2020 – beaten by Watson across the board – and set a precedent when he went to the Rams for Goff, two first-round picks and a third.

What does that make Watson worth? Well, his desire to depart might bring the value down slightly, but Houston would surely expect picks as well as a QB prospect.

TUA TAGOVAILOA

Tagovailoa was the fifth pick just a year ago, but the Miami Dolphins might already be interested in moving on, especially if that means a trade for Watson.

Although there were signs of Tagovailoa's promise as he won his first three NFL starts, 2020 ended with his benching in a Week 16 comeback win and then three costly picks in a Week 17 defeat that saw the Dolphins miss the playoffs.

Miami might feel a move for Watson would make them contenders, while the Texans could use a talent like Tagovailoa in their rebuild.

There is a complication, however. The draft picks Houston would receive alongside Tagovailoa in return for Watson would be the same selections they spent themselves in a deal for offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil. In order to save face, an alternative package might appeal.

SAM DARNOLD

Such an offer may well materialise elsewhere in the AFC East. The New York Jets are likely to have an interest in Watson if they move on from Darnold and do not want to try again in the draft with the second pick.

That would have been the first selection had the Jets not inexplicably rallied to two wins, gifting Trevor Lawrence to the Jacksonville Jaguars.

The signing of Watson would significantly soften that blow, but it would most likely mean the Texans taking on Darnold, who has played for two more years than Tagovailoa and is still to show he is really up to the task. A career tally of 45 TDs and 39 interceptions for a passer rating of 78.6 does not compare favourably.

His team even failed when apparently tanking. Houston would hope a Darnold-led rebuild would fare better.

JIMMY GAROPPOLO

This busy market might have piqued the interest of San Francisco 49ers fans looking for a more reliable option at QB, where Garoppolo has started only 30 games in four years. It could be time for him to move on.

The landing spot for the 29-year-old would seemingly be New England, a place he knows well having previously served as Brady's understudy on the Patriots.

Brady stuck around longer than expected, so Garoppolo moved to San Francisco and performed well in 2019, starting all 16 games for the only time in his career and throwing 27 TDs before making the Super Bowl.

That proved the peak, however, with defeat in the big game, although the Pats look to be interested again having failed to properly replace - yes – Brady.

CAM NEWTON

Newton was the man Bill Belichick initially turned to, agreeing a one-year deal with the former MVP that makes him a free agent again this year.

A return to New England cannot be entirely ruled out, although a team and coach used to Brady's brilliance never really adjusted to a QB who threw only eight TDs.

Newton might have other options. Washington head coach Ron Rivera knows the player well from their time together with the Carolina Panthers and could be more appreciative of his other talents, notably a running game that brought 592 yards and 12 TDs on 137 carries in 2020.

JAMEIS WINSTON

Winston, once a number one overall pick, is another man heading for free agency. He spent last season with the New Orleans Saints but found himself third choice, behind utility player Taysom Hill, and participated in only 51 plays.

It was a far cry from the previous year when Winston was Tampa Bay's starter and involved in just about everything, remarkably throwing 33 TDs and 30 interceptions.

That 2019 campaign encapsulated how chaotic the 27-year-old can be, but he would argue he deserves to at least be competing for a start somewhere. If not back to New Orleans, Winston could be headed for somewhere like Washington and a team looking to change things on the cheap.

RUSSELL WILSON

Wilson certainly would not come cheap. And it seems improbable he would come at all, regardless of the suitor.

But noises of unhappiness in Seattle, where the Seahawks failed to give their superstar quarterback the help he needed, were followed by Wilson's agent saying only moves to the Saints, Dallas Cowboys, Las Vegas Raiders or Chicago Bears would appeal.

Dak Prescott's new deal in Dallas closed that avenue, while the Saints and Bears are already set to be way over the cap. Any blockbuster move for Seattle's most prized asset could change the entire complexion of this offseason, though.

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