Updated: Jan 7, 2021
I can’t believe I`m typing this, but hey, 2020 has proven that anything can happen. Cam Newton is a New England Patriot.
I was just as shocked as most of you when the news broke on Sunday night. Don’t get me wrong, I had long thought that Newton still had plenty left in the tank and was perplexed as to why he went unsigned for so long, but I had convinced myself that Stidham was the Patriots' guy. Seemingly every time I’ve mentioned my excitement for the Newton-Belichick pairing since it was announced, L.A. Rice has brought up how confident I had been in Stidham ever since Tom Brady signed with Tampa Bay. This is true, I did think Stidham was going to surprise some people and give the Patriots a legitimate shot at the playoffs, but this is Cam Newton we’re talking about. College football national champion Cam Newton. 2015 NFL MVP Cam Newton. Superman Cam Newton.
Newton has been hurt, and that’s the only logical reason as to why he was without a team for so long and why the Patriots were able to sign him to a team-friendly deal that kept them under the luxury tax, which they’re pushing up against at the moment. Another reason they were able to sign him to such a small contract was because only one other team even showed interest in Newton. The Cleveland Browns are the only other team to have reportedly talked with him, and they didn’t even offer him a contract. The lack of attention makes little sense to me. Who wouldn’t want to give a former MVP a shot, especially if he’s as healthy as he’s advertised on social media? Newton did look bad last year, and I mean really bad, but it’d be a gross oversight to say that it was because he lost his ability to play the position of quarterback in the NFL. Newton was great just as recently as the first half of the 2018 season, completing 67.3% of passes while throwing 15 touchdowns and just four interceptions. He also added another four scores on the ground. Through those eight games, he produced a quarterback rating of 100.8 and led the Panthers to a 6-2 record. Newton’s remaining eight games of the 2018 season were marred by a shoulder injury which eventually required surgery the following offseason. Move forward to this past football season where we saw Newton suffer an injury to his left foot, which would undergo surgery in December of 2019. With a throwing shoulder that required him to go under the knife that same calendar year and injured foot, it’s no wonder why Superman looked like he had lost his powers last season. But don’t let recency bias fool you, he still can perform at a high level if healthy.
(Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Newton joins the Patriots on a “prove it” deal; he’s under contract with the team for just one season, although the Patriots will be able to apply the franchise tag to him after this season if they so desire, according to Jason La Canfora. I was already curious to watch the Patriots sans Brady, but I’ll be beyond excited for this season if Newton is under center. I think I’m safely in the majority in thinking that Newton wins the job and begins the season (if there is one) as the starter for the Patriots. If that is how training camp plays out, we’ll see a much different Patriots offense than we’ve seen for the past 20 years, and I’ll be curious to watch it.
A healthy Newton puts the Patriots in the conversation for the third best team in the AFC and makes them a genuine Super Bowl contender. The Chiefs and Ravens are the clear one and two in the AFC, and I’d hear arguments for who the favorite should be for this upcoming season. After that, however, the Bills, Steelers, Browns, Texans, Titans, and now Patriots all have a case for the third best team in the conference. Whether you agree with me or not, the fact of the matter is the Patriots weren’t in that discussion before signing Newton and they are now, all for the price of a $1.05 million base salary this season. Newton could elevate his earnings up to $7.5 million by hitting his incentives, but that would go against the Patriots cap for next season, which makes this deal possible. It’s a genius move.
Now we all just get to sit back and watch Bill Belichick and Josh McDaniels scheme around another former MVP. Newton isn’t walking into an other-worldly supporting cast, but there’s opportunity for growth around him. If the offensive line stays healthy, the Patriots’ young receivers like N’Keal Harry (whose 6’4” frame can help alleviate some of Newton’s occasional inaccuracies) and Jakobi Meyers take steps forward, and rookie tight ends Devin Asiasi and Dalton Keene provide value to the offense, look out.
I’ll say it again: Cam Newton is a New England Patriot. Order the jerseys, make the iPhone backgrounds, and get excited.