New England Patriots cut Cam Newton as rookie Mac Jones wins starting QB job

In the search to find an eventual long-term replacement for Tom Brady in New England, a new quarterback will get his chance.

The Patriots have released veteran passer Cam Newton, clearing the way for rookie first-round selection Mac Jones to be the Week 1 starter, Mark Daniels of the Providence Journal, part of the USA TODAY Network, confirmed Tuesday. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss publicly.

The Boston Globe was the first to report the news.

Newton, who started last year in his lone season in New England, had been involved in a battle with Jones over the starting job throughout training camp. Newton, 32, had been inconsistent in camp and was eventually forced to sit out five days and three practices after he was placed on the NFL’s COVID-19 list over what the team called a “misunderstanding” of the league’s rules.

New England Patriots quarterback Mac Jones (50) watches New England Patriots quarterback Cam Newton (1) during training camp at Gillette Stadium.

In that time, Jones shined as he played most first-team reps in practice and also excelled in joint practices against the New York Giants.

The Patriots selected Jones, 22, out of Alabama with the 15th overall pick in the first round of the 2021 NFL draft in April. Jones will make his NFL debut Sept. 12 against the Miami Dolphins, who start Jones' former teammate and the quarterback who preceded him at Alabama, Tua Tagovailoa.

Jones and Newton play the position very differently, with Jones being much closer to the pocket-passer mold similar to Brady's style of play. While Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels adapted New England's scheme last year to fit Newton's skill-set, Jones' experience in a pro-style offense with the Crimson Tide means he can execute many of the staples that McDaniels likes to run.

Newton also struggled to find consistency in New England's preseason. He completed 14 of his 21 pass attempts in three exhibition games for 162 yards with one touchdown and one interception.

Jones completed 36 of 52 passes for 389 yards with one touchdown and no picks.

Newton now becomes a free agent and will be available to sign with any team. In his one season as a starter in New England, Newton completed 65.8% of his passes for 2,657 yards with eight touchdowns and 10 interceptions, while adding 592 rushing yards and 12 rushing scores.

All NFL teams have to trim their rosters to 53 players by the 4 p.m. ET deadline Tuesday afternoon.

Teams considering Newton, however, have to weigh his potential availability throughout this season with the league's updated COVID safety protocols. Unvaccinated players have to go through the NFL's five-day re-entry process, which Newton did before he returned to the team. That means that, at least as of last week, Newton had not been vaccinated, and also means he could be forced to miss time in the future if he signs with another team and experiences a situation in which he was deemed a close contact.

The Patriots went 7-9 last year and missed the postseason for the first time since the 2008 season.