On March 24, the Carolina Panthers released Cam Newton. The first overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft, the 2015 NFL Most Valuable Player, and the Panther’s franchise signal-caller of nine years was a free agent. At the time, it felt like Newton’s availability would not last, let alone endure for over three months.
From 2011 to 2018, Cam Newton started in 122 of 128 possible regular season games. He missed all but two games of the 2019 season after breaking his foot. After successful surgery in December, he passed his March physical and his foot and shoulder issues appeared to be in the rearview mirror. The Panthers had Teddy Bridgewater basically moving into Newton’s office before he was even out the door. Between an unusually active quarterback market, the coronavirus pandemic preventing any in-person workouts, and skepticism surrounding the 30-year-old with two recent injuries, the interest in Newton never developed. At all. Until a Sunday night in late June, right as the NBA and MLB had captured the headlines in the sports world.
On June 28, the Patriots signed Cam Newton to a one-year deal worth up to $7.5 million. According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the Patriots were the only team that displayed interest in the former MVP: “the truth of the matter is that Cam Newton did not have any other offers from any other teams”. In typical Bill Belichick fashion, when the other 31 teams zigged, he zagged.
Low Risk, High Reward: This Is The Way
The Patriot Way. You’ve heard about it, you’ve seen it. Bill Belichick did it again, punctuated with Newton’s “incentive-laden” deal. Minimal financial risk for the Patriots if the deal does not pan out, but over seven million dollars for Cam Newton if he performs to his capacity.
The contract details were critical to the completion of this deal, as Newton remained vocal about his demands throughout his time in free agency. The former MVP and first overall pick wanted to start. He wanted to be paid accordingly, and rightly so. He was owed over $20 million by the Panthers before his release. While the $7 million in possible money pales in comparison to his previous contract, remember the market.
The Patriots were the only team that showed legitimate interest. Schefter reported that the Browns contacted Cam Newton, but the talks never progressed. Ah, Cleveland.
A talented veteran desperate for another chance. A team in quarterback limbo strapped for cap space, but still talented enough to compete. The perfect marriage.
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Bill’s Way Or The Highway
Bill Belichick has taken short-term chances on veterans before, and he will do it again. That much is a fact. What happens after the signing is a very different story. Reggie Wayne spent eleven days on the roster before stepping away. Running back Joseph Addai quit prior to the start of camp and then retired. Antonio Brown, well, Antonio Brown. Then you have your Randy Moss, Darrelle Revis types: guys who ran with the opportunity and stuck around.
It’s in the hands of Mr. Newton now. The culture in New England has polarized talented veterans before. To adapt or not to adapt: That is Cam’s question.
If Cam Newton sticks (and stays healthy), he has the chance to not only be the best quarterback in the AFC East but keep the Patriots in title contention. And if he doesn’t? Neither side really gets hurt; the Patriots are off the hook for much of the contract, Cam Newton is a free-agent quarterback, and Jarrett Stidham gets the keys. The perfect marriage.
Cam Newton or no Cam Newton, the New England Patriots will look a lot different next season. Newton has a chance to provide New England with an offensive dynamic, unlike anything this franchise has ever seen. Steve Grogan is the Patriots’ franchise leader in rushing yards (2,176) and rushing touchdowns (35) for quarterbacks. Cam Newton already has more than twice the rushing yards as Grogan and twenty-three more rushing touchdowns.
As of right now, Cam Newton is not the week-one starter by any means. But the possibility is as exciting as it is promising.