Cam Newton’s deal with the Patriots seemingly comes with little risk for New England.
As such, ESPN’s Bill Barnwell wrote Sunday night the Patriots “might have come away with the bargain of the offseason” by reportedly agreeing to a one-year, incentive-laden contract with the 2015 NFL MVP.
Barnwell evaluated the move in great detail for ESPN.com, before ultimately handing down a very high grade: “A-minus.”
“This is an obviously smart move for the Patriots, even if it doesn’t work out,” the NFL analyst wrote. “Merely having Newton on their roster when he could have served as a high-upside backup for such rivals as the Bills, Ravens, Steelers, Chiefs and Tennessee Titans would have been worth what the Patriots are paying him. For the Patriots to add a starter with Newton’s upside this late in the process is almost a cliché. This has a strong case to become the best free-agent signing of the offseason.”
The Patriots have received mostly high praise for bringing in Newton, who was released by the Carolina Panthers in March. There’s reason to believe the 31-year-old will be extra motivated upon landing in Foxboro, where he’ll presumably compete with second-year signal-caller Jarrett Stidham and veteran journeyman Brian Hoyer for New England’s starting quarterback job in wake of Tom Brady’s departure.
Of course, there’s no guarantee Newton succeeds. Not only has he dealt with injuries and subpar performance over the past couple of seasons. But he’ll also bring a completely different style to New England’s offense, and thus it remains to be seen how Bill Belichick and Josh McDaniels will maximize his potential moving forward.
It’s hard to find fault in the move, though, especially given the minimal financial commitment. If it doesn’t work, the Patriots simply can move on next offseason. If it does work, and Newton returns to playing like a superstar, New England could remain in the Super Bowl conversation despite losing the greatest quarterback in NFL history earlier this offseason.
“The chances of a healthy — or at least much healthier — version of Newton showing up for the Patriots this season are much better than some would suggest,” Barnwell wrote. “The idea that he hasn’t been a valuable quarterback since his 2015 MVP campaign is a product of selective memory.”
If nothing else, this season just got a lot more interesting for the Patriots.