Patriots provide perfect landing spot for Cam Newton
Everything written about Newton and the Patriots will come with a huge asterisk. No one knows how Newton's shoulder will hold up, although it looked promising last offseason before he hurt his foot last August. It also remains to be seen how that dreaded Lisfranc injury impacts Newton's ability to move. There has never been a quarterback quite like Newton, a streaky passer with one of the biggest arms in football who just so happens to be the best red zone runner of his generation.
Newton's health, of course, is the only reason why he's available. If just one other team in the league valued Newton for Chase Daniel money, he would have found a job before he was cheap enough for Belichick to pounce. The Patriots, who entered this weekend with under $1 million in cap space, will sneak Newton on to the roster with a "bare minimum" base deal, according to NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport, that could be worth up to $7.5 million in incentives. While we still need some details to come in, Tom Brady is going to cost the Patriots far more on the salary cap ($13.4 million) than Newton, Brian Hoyer and Jarrett Stidham combined.
All those "Patriots believe in Stidham!" narratives look problematic now, yet they give the Patriots too much credit for this master plan. It's not like Belichick Jedi-mind tricked the entire rest of the league into allowing Newton to sign for a minimum deal. If any team had wanted Newton over the last three months, the Patriots were ready to roll with Stidham. They will still need to be ready to roll with Stidham if Newton can't prove he's healthy. This signing isn't about Stidham, it's about Belichick being Belichick, taking ridiculous value wherever it presents itself, like the Randy Moss trade once upon a time.
If Newton is healthy, I'm not that interested in the quarterback battle stories that will arise from Belichick not revealing anything in August. A healthy Newton is going to win that battle ten times out of ten and will force the Patriots to build the offense around him.
McDaniels -- and Belichick -- should be thrilled. Because he always had Tom Brady, McDaniels hasn't always received the credit he deserves for being ahead of NFL scheme trends. As the Patriots struggled to contain athletic quarterbacks like Lamar Jackson, Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson the last few seasons, I've wondered if McDaniels was itchy to break out some of his 2010 Tim Tebow Broncos playbook. The Patriots now have a quarterback and an interior offensive line in Shaq Mason, David Andrews and Joe Thuney that could make life difficult on defenses on run-pass option plays. And for all the struggles the Patriots offense had late last year, a wideout group of Julian Edelman, a healthier Mohamed Sanu, and 2019 first round pick N'Keal Harry is no worse than the crews Newton rolled with in Carolina.
No team turns on a dime quite like the Patriots, and they will likely attempt to win in much different ways than most of the Brady era. A legitimate chance to play meaningful games under a stable coaching staff is all Newton could have hoped for in his cursed 2020 offseason. If Cam Newton is going to evolve and thrive in his thirties like the last quarterback to start for the Patriots, he couldn't have found a better place to do it than Foxborough.