Winners and Losers of Cam Newton Signing with New England Patriots
The NFL world didn't have much to talk about as teams wrapped up virtual OTAs until the New England Patriots woke everyone out of their early summer slumbers on Sunday, signing Cam Newton to a one-year deal, per ESPN's Adam Schefter and Chris Mortensen.
New England's headline acquisition drowned out the news about its penalties following an investigation of the team's television crew. As a result of the probe, the Patriots cannot film games in 2020, they lose a 2021 third-round pick, and they must pay a $1.1 million fine, per Schefter.
Beyond that, the Patriots can find solace in their ability to land Newton for $7.5 million, which is a shrewd deal when you consider the club had limited cap space ($1.3 million, per Over the Cap).
For a low price, New England potentially changed its 2020 outlook for the better on a large scale. On the flip side, a few teams and one specific player may not see this move as good news.
We'll take a look at the biggest winners and losers of the Newton signing.
Winner: QB Cam Newton
Obviously, Cam Newton tops the list as the biggest winner.
According to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport in early May, Newton would've considered a backup job "in the right situation." Nearly two months later, he's going to suit up for Bill Belichick, one of the best head coaches in NFL history.
Per SportsLine's Matt Severance, Newton's odds to win Comeback Player of the Year moved from +1000 to +450, which ranks third behind Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and Tamp Bay Buccaneers tight end Rob Gronkowski.
The Patriots wide receiver corps doesn't have dynamic talent. Julian Edelman turned 34 years old in May. Mohamed Sanu had offseason ankle surgery, and he's going into his age-31 term. N'Keal Harry went through a rough rookie campaign, missing nine games because of an ankle injury. He finished with just 12 catches for 105 yards and two touchdowns.
Nevertheless, Newton has done more with less in his career. He led the 2015 Carolina Panthers to Super Bowl 50. On that squad, only tight end Greg Olsen logged more than 45 receptions or 740 receiving yards.
If Edelman and Sanu stay healthy or Harry makes a second-year leap, Newton will have a solid go-to receiver in New England.
Loser: QB Jarrett Stidham
Before Newton's signing, Jarrett Stidham had a lead on Brian Hoyer for the starting job, per ESPN's Mike Reiss. He had practice time with Edelman, tuning up on chemistry for the upcoming campaign.
Despite Newton's late arrival, he's unlikely to take a backseat to Stidham if healthy. The former Carolina Panther underwent Lisfranc surgery in December, but he's looked steady and strong on his feet while working out in the gym.
Players on the mend can go to team facilities for injury rehabilitation, so the Patriots will have a closer look at Newton and can assess his recovery timetable. Assuming he can step on the field Week 1, the former league MVP should start over Stidham, a second-year quarterback who's only thrown four regular-season passes.
New England signed Newton for one year, so he'll delay Stidham's opportunity to start for at least a season. In all likelihood, the young signal-caller will only see the field if his new superstar teammate isn't in a condition to play because of his foot injury.
Winner: New England Patriots 2020 Team
With Stidham, the Patriots' 2020 season had an unpredictable feel to it. They would sink or swim with an unproven signal-caller.
Now, Belichick and play-caller Josh McDaniels will mold the offense around a known commodity. The coaching staff could use Newton's mobility as an extra wrinkle, which is a new type of flexibility after 20 years of Tom Brady as a stationary pocket quarterback.
McDaniels can open up the playbook. In addition to Newton's ability to move the chains with his legs, he has a strong arm to threaten defenses vertically. Pending his condition, the 31-year-old is still a dynamic quarterback who can challenge a defense on the ground or through the air.
In the AFC, the Kansas City Chiefs and Baltimore Ravens have starting quarterbacks who earned the last two league MVP honors in Patrick Mahomes and Lamar Jackson, respectively. The Patriots can match them with Newton, who earned that recognition after the 2015 campaign.
All of a sudden, New England has become a viable playoff contender with a signal-caller capable of a stellar full-season performance.
Loser: AFC East
While Patriots fans should feel a jolt of optimism, the entire AFC East goes on notice.
The Buffalo Bills' pathway to an AFC East title automatically becomes more difficult as the Patriots upgrade at quarterback. The division rivals competed in two tight contests last year, but New England came out on top despite Brady's struggles. He threw for 421 yards, one touchdown and an interception in those contests.
In 2020, the Patriots don’t play the Bills until Week 8 and then again in what could be a crucial Week 16 Monday Night Football matchup. Assuming Newton makes a steady recovery, he'll play in both games, giving Buffalo a lot to prepare for.
The New York Jets and Miami Dolphins could've become surprise contenders in the AFC, vying for the top spot in the division. Now, both teams seem destined for third- and fourth-place finishes with the Patriots and Bills battling for the No. 1 slot.
Winner: Bill Belichick
Going into the 2020 season, we're going to hear a lot about the Brady vs. Belichick discussion. Who's better off after their split?
Initially, Brady took the upper hand. He signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who have two Pro Bowl wide receivers in Mike Evans and Chris Godwin. On top of that, tight end Rob Gronkowski came out of retirement to join the NFC South club. The Patriots agreed to trade him and a seventh-round pick for a fourth-rounder.
With the Buccaneers offense, Brady should put together a solid 2020 campaign. Meanwhile, Belichick's Patriots didn't have a playoff feel until Sunday. According to Caesar's Casino & Sportsbook, New England has -185 odds to make the postseason.
A Belichick-Newton partnership brightens the head coach's 2020 outlook. Along with McDaniels, he's not tasked with molding a young signal-caller from scratch or forced to settle for a career backup in Hoyer.
Instead, Belichick will join forces with a quarterback whom he holds in high regard. The Patriots lead skipper talked glowingly about Newton's abilities three years ago during a media presser (h/t Henry McKenna of Patriots Wire):
“I think when you're talking about mobile quarterbacks—guys that are tough to handle, can throw, run, make good decisions … —I would put him at the top of the list. ... He can beat you in a lot of different ways. We saw that in the game in 2013. I would put him at the top of the list. I'm not saying the other guys aren't a problem, because they are. But he's maybe public enemy No. 1.”
Belichick's assessment of Newton's game suggests the Patriots will have more than a few offensive tricks to roll out in the upcoming term. Perhaps he and Brady moved on to better situations.
Nonetheless, the Patriots have an easier road to the postseason in a division they've won every year since 2009, while the Buccaneers must go through the Super Bowl-contending New Orleans Saints for the NFC South title or sneak into a wild-card spot.
Loser: Carolina Panthers
Carolina chose Teddy Bridgewater over Newton. The Panthers signed the former and allowed the latter to seek a trade before they released him.
The Panthers will comfortably move on with Bridgewater and their new regime, but the team may look back at the transition as a mistake if Newton succeeds in New England.
Newton couldn't have landed in a better spot. He's probably going to start and play for the most successful NFL franchise over the last two decades. If Belichick and McDaniels help the 10th-year veteran rediscover himself, he'd prove the Panthers may have given up on him too early.
As Carolina rebuilds, Newton could take another trip to the playoffs with the ability to put his best on display. Even if he doesn't remain with the Patriots beyond the upcoming campaign, his 2020 performance could help him land a long-term deal elsewhere in 2021.
For now, Panthers fans will probably watch Newton win a lot of games with a contender and wonder what could've been if the team allowed him to play out the final year of his contract.