The New England Patriots waited until the twilight of June to make their first blockbuster transaction of the 2020 NFL offseason.
The Patriots on Sunday signed former Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton to an incentive-laden one-year contract, according to multiple reports, bringing aboard a former NFL MVP to compete with second-year pro Jarrett Stidham and veteran journeyman Brian Hoyer for the starting job.
Newton’s signing was a hit with two of New England’s defensive leaders.
Jason and Devin McCourty were just beginning their weekly “Double Coverage” live stream when the Newton news broke. Both applauded the move.
“I’m excited,” cornerback Jason said. “Bill (Belichick) always says it — the goal to be a good team is to have as many good players as possible. Cam Newton’s a former MVP of this league, played in a Super Bowl — that caliber of a player — so I think the better players we have in our locker room, the better we’re going to be able to go out there and perform as a team.”
“I agree fully with you,” added safety Devin, a longtime Patriots captain. “I think when you add a guy like Cam Newton, it makes our quarterback room even better. We’ve already spoken about it before, the poise and the jump and the leap you expect for Stiddy (Stidham) to make, and I think it’ll be interesting just to (have) training camp and competing and all of that. That’s how we all get better.
“So I would think adding (Newton) to our quarterback room with Hoyer — you have veterans in there; you have young guys in there — I think it’ll give us a really good chance to be good at that position. And like you just said, it’s always great to have a bunch of good players, and we’re just trying to add to that. So it’ll be a fun year — if the year goes as expected and we have a season.”
Injuries limited Newton to just two games last season, and he’s no longer the unrivaled rushing threat he was in his earlier years. He was an effective passer as recently as 2018, however, completing a career-best 67.9 percent of his passes and posting the second-best passer rating of his career (94.2) that season, and should still boast dangerous mobility if healthy.
In 2017, before Newton led the Panthers to a 33-30 win over the Patriots at Gillette Stadium, Belichick said he “would put Newton at the top of the list” of “mobile quarterbacks, guys that are tough to handle, tackle, can throw, run, make good decisions, can beat you.”
“He would be Public Enemy No. 1,” the coach said.
Bill Belichick on Cam Newton in 2017: “I think when you’re talking about mobile quarterbacks, guys that are tough to handle, tackle, can throw, run, make good decisions, can beat you — I would put Newton at the top of the list. … he would be Public Enemy No. 1." pic.twitter.com/DX8YApemin
— Zack Cox (@ZackCoxNESN) June 29, 2020
Newton also engineered a 24-20 victory over New England in 2013. He was 2-0 against the Patriots during his Panthers tenure and also faced the Pats several times during the preseason.
“I’m happy to not play against him,” Devin McCourty said. “He always kills us.”
Newton, 31, is entering his 10th NFL season and his first outside Carolina.
“It’ll be a fun time, man,” Devin McCourty said. “Obviously, a proven veteran to enter your locker room, I think, is always great. Anytime … you get a veteran of a lot of years to come in is always a good thing to help younger players understand how the league works and how to get better.”
The Patriots, who are entering Year 1 of the post-Tom Brady era, now have a surplus of quarterbacks on their 90-man roster. They’ll likely release one or both of their two undrafted rookie signal-callers (J’Mar Smith and Brian Lewerke) before training camp begins.