Cam Newton signing with the New England Patriots was one of those rare football transactions where you sensed it was probably coming but still made you go “wow” when it finally did.
The idea of Newton linking up with the Patriots, on a one-year deal filled with incentives and clauses, has made a world of sense ever since the former MVP got booted from the Carolina Panthers and Tom Brady ditched Foxborough, all in the space of a single March week.
The @Patriots’ new QB…@CameronNewton. pic.twitter.com/6dGCi4SbOf
— NFL (@NFL) June 29, 2020
Not everyone predicted it, but you could feel its looming presence.
The next bit? The part where Newton actually suits up in Patriots uniform and fights for his place as QB1 on a Bill Belichick team that has been the most successful of this generation? No one knows what happens there.
It is possible to envisage everything from a total wreck that leaves Newton’s career in tatters and his playing reputation beyond repair, to a dramatic career revival that spearheads New England to a run at yet another Super Bowl and has Bostonians quizzing “Tom who?”
— Cameron 1 Newton (@CameronNewton) June 29, 2020
It boils down to this. Newton has as much ability as any quarterback to have ever played the game. Trouble is, no one knows how much he has left in the tank, whether he has been too badly beaten up, whether his body is able and mind is willing for another go. In most cases the odds might have been against him, after playing two games in 18 months and being not-so-politely ushered out of Carolina.
But the Belichick factor changes everything and makes it seem that much more likely that he can produce something like the Newton of old. The thinking here is twofold. One is that no one in the National Football League is better than Belichick at getting the best out of a QB, and of structuring an offense to the specifics of a system. Also, the mere fact that Belichick sees him as worth taking a flier on makes everyone else think that hey, maybe he’s not washed up after all.
FS1’s Nick Wright has long believed that the Patriots had too much to gain, and too little to lose, to pass on Newton. He called it, back in late April.
“I think this ends with Cam Newton to the Patriots for almost no money,” Wright said, and yes, a basic salary of $1 million, in today’s quarterback market, emphatically counts as “almost no money.” “I look around the league,” Wright added. “The Titans, the Colts, the Bears, the Jaguars should’ve signed him. I’m already irritated, not only because the Patriots will be good, but because I’ll find myself rooting for them.”
— First Things First (@FTFonFS1) June 29, 2020
FOX Sports’ Greg Jennings also strongly predicted that Newton would come to the Patriots on more than one occasion.
Now opinion is going to diverge, significantly. There are some who think Newton may not even be able to hold it together for long enough to secure the QB1 position on a Patriots depth chart where his chief rivals will be Jarrett Stidham and Brian Hoyer.
Others think that this is the ideal scenario for him to conjure memories of that 2015 season where the Panthers went all the way to the Super Bowl before stumbling to defeat against the Peyton Manning-led Denver Broncos.
Wow. The smart, obvious move all along for all parties. Super happy for Cam.
And New England all of a sudden becomes super dangerous. They won 12 games last year & just got a massive upgrade at quarterback. https://t.co/FqKgzECfGe
— nick wright (@getnickwright) June 28, 2020
“New England all of a sudden becomes super-dangerous,” Wright added on Twitter. “They won 12 games last year and just got a massive upgrade at quarterback.”
A big part of the challenge for New England is not just replacing Brady the player, but in matching the aura of permanence and inevitability he brought to the team. With Newton, there will be someone who has walked the walk at the highest level and a man who has lived his entire professional career in the spotlight.
“I will give you this: Cam Newton is the perfect possible replacement for Tom Brady,” Skip Bayless said on Undisputed. “He will not be afraid of that challenge. There are only a handful of quarterbacks who could step into those shoes in Foxborough and be okay with the pressure.”
“I will give you this: Cam Newton is the perfect possible replacement for Tom Brady. He will not be afraid of that challenge.”@RealSkipBayless pic.twitter.com/XlzRVrIVuJ
— FOX Sports (@FOXSports) June 29, 2020
Let’s step away from the nuts and bolts for a minute, shall we? Whatever the reality of Newton’s physical capability – maybe Belichick was watching those workout videos – this is an absolute barnstormer of a storyline, isn’t it?
It is deliciously dramatic and poisonously perfect. With all due respect to Stidham, who still of course has a chance to win the job, this narrative needed the injection of another big name into it.
Brady went south and found some swagger, with that brilliant interview on Howard Stern and a persona that indicates he is finally relishing being out of a system where stars aren’t encouraged to shine brighter than the team.
“Cam Newton is a former MVP, ROY and the talent is there. Once Cam is up to speed, he will be the starting QB for the New England Patriots.”@ShannonSharpe pic.twitter.com/Da9n6SjupB
— FOX Sports (@FOXSports) June 29, 2020
Enter a guy with bountiful personality, those crazy hats and wild outfits and, certainly when things are firing, belief that he is the best.
The Patriots got a quarterback who was once great, and is making a small bet on whether he can be so again. Newton gets the only thing he craved, a chance to show he still has it.
And the NFL gets a phenomenal plot to follow, both before this much-awaited season, and during it. Like all the best scripts, we go in having no idea how it is going to turn out.