49ers

Cam Newton's cheap Patriots contract follows ugly pattern for Black QBs

Cam Newton's cheap Patriots contract follows ugly pattern for Black QBs

No team in the NFL cheats more brazenly than the New England Patriots, and no coach is trickier than the ever-sly Bill Belichick, who outdid himself over the weekend.

While the rest of the NFL continued its ongoing brainstorm in search of new ways to praise Colin Kaepernick while simultaneously ignoring him, Belichick sidled up to Cam Newton offering a cup of warm lemonade and a half-bag of Fritos in exchange for a signature.

Or slightly more than the New Orleans Saints paid in April to sign former Tampa Bay starter Jameis Winston.

And much, much less than the Lions paid in March to bring in career backup Chase Daniel.

To borrow a line from the “H2Ogate Blues” of the late, great poet Gil Scott-Heron, this is the NFL being the NFL: “It follows a pattern, if you dig what I mean.”

Belichick got his man, on a make-good contract. And his roster now includes a legitimate starting quarterback that turned 31 years old in May, for a contract that will cost them a fraction of the $25 million the Indianapolis Colts threw at 38-year-old Philip Rivers.

Or, to be more pointed, a fraction of the $25 million the Buccaneers begged Tom Brady to take upon becoming a free agent in 2020.

If Cam has a nice season, the incentives in his one-year contract, as reported by NFL Network, will push his deal to about $7.5 million. In which case Newton would slide into the same salary tier as oft-ridiculed Bears quarterback Mitch Trubisky, who has a fraction of the Cam’s gifts.

Don’t blame Cam or his representatives for taking the deal. If he wanted a near-lock opportunity to start, he had to sign. He probably would not have gotten more money from another team, and any chance of that would have meant going to a place with little chance to succeed.

Can’t blame Belichick, either. Applaud him for knowing the league’s quarterback-money game is rigged, a pattern that rewards solemn white mediocrity -- see Blaine Gabbert, Matt Barkley and Daniel, to name four -- while lowballing the likes of superior but “risky” black quarterbacks, such as Newton, Winston and Kaepernick.

Oh, yes, there is a double standard. How else to explain Daniel -- with five career starts -- getting three years at $13 million, while Newton and Winston each get a one-year trial at a combined max of $10.9 million? How else to explain Kaepernick, who accomplished more in one season than Daniel has in 11, not getting a call in three years?

Belichick did what he does better than any coach in NFL history. He studied his competitors, saw their weaknesses and exploited them.

Signing Newton was an easy call for Belichick because 1) He understands and truly admires talent and 2) He doesn’t give a flit what anybody else thinks. He might have gone after Kaepernick had Newton not agreed to come aboard.

To be fair, Newton has to prove he has recovered from shoulder surgery 18 months ago and foot surgery seven months ago. He insists he’s ready to go. His former coach with the Carolina Panthers, Ron Rivera, who reportedly considered bringing Newton to his new team in Washington, believes in the quarterback that got him to his only Super Bowl in 2016.

"You've got to know. The foot and the shoulder will be the two biggest concerns everybody has,” Rivera told Jay Glazer of Fox Sports a few weeks ago. "I will say this, though, from the people that are around him that I know, they've all said the same thing to me. They've said, 'Coach, he looks great. He really does.' And they also told me, 'He's a little bit different.' His whole attitude -- he's got something to prove.

“And I will say this: The one thing about Cam Newton with an edge for something to prove, don't ever bet against him."

[RELATED: Newton-Pats agreement amplifies 49ers' Week 7 matchup]

The potential payoff is massive. Cam has started 131 games, including seven in the postseason. His resume includes video evidence of him outthrowing most fellow quarterbacks, outrunning opposing linebackers and running through opposing defensive backs.

Rarely does Belichick allow himself a public smile, having perfected the role of the android, concealing his feelings behind a face of granite. No doubt, though, that as much of the NFL assumed the Patriots were done as contenders, Belichick was giggling.

Spygate, Deflategate, various PED infractions -- Tuck-Rule-gate, anyone? -- are all in the past.

After taking advantage of the overt and covert biases of others and getting Cam for cheap, we imagine Bill spent the weekend grinning into his favorite beverage. Why not? It’s not cheating when your competitors let you do it.

Russell Wilson, Deshaun Watson show interest in signing Antonio Brown

Russell Wilson, Deshaun Watson show interest in signing Antonio Brown

Around and around we go.

Almost any other wide receiver who burned as many bridges as Antonio Brown has over the last two years would never draw interest from another NFL team ever again. But due to his tantalizing talent and prolific production, he continues to get the benefit of the doubt.

He doesn't deserve it, but it's understandable. Forget receivers, when Brown is on the field, there are few offensive players more frightening for defensive coordinators. Of course, he also has proven himself to be a nightmare for his own coaches. Thus is the risk/reward factor he presents.

Despite his risk far outweighing the reward as of late, interest in Brown doesn't appear to be waning. 

Back in May, it was reported that Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson "would love" to add Brown to his receiving corps. A little more than a month later, the two were connecting on routes on a practice field.

Yes, that is a Raiders helmet that Brown is wearing. How'd his time in Oakland go, again? But I digress...

[49ERS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

Wilson doesn't appear to be the only star quarterback interested in adding Brown to his roster. After former NFL receiver Chad Johnson took to Twitter to express his preference for Brown to join the Texans, Houston QB Deshaun Watson didn't exactly pour cold water on the idea.

The Texans were on the wrong end of one of the more one-sided trades in recent memory this offseason when they questionably sent standout receiver DeAndre Hopkins to the Arizona Cardinals. Houston did acquire Brandin Cooks from the Los Angeles Rams, but perhaps Watson believes his receiving corps is missing an ingredient.

[RELATED: 49ers don't need Brown to be favorites, but Seahawks might]

If Brown is signed -- which is a big if -- it's unlikely he would be able to play much at all this coming season, regardless of which team signed him. A trio of Personal Conduct Policy investigations must be concluded before he can sign with a team, and even if all that is settled, it is widely expected that he would be facing a lengthy suspension upon rejoining the league.

Do you trust Brown to behave through that entire process? At this point, it's difficult to understand why anyone would. But clearly, some players still feel the risk is worth the reward.

Why Warren Moon believes 49ers are favorites in competitive NFC West

Why Warren Moon believes 49ers are favorites in competitive NFC West

The 49ers ran through the NFC playoffs, held a double-digit lead in the fourth quarter of Super Bowl LIV and arguably have improved this offseason. So, they've got to be the favorites in their own division, right?

It wouldn't exactly be going out on a limb to take that stance, as San Francisco currently is the betting favorite to emerge not just from the NFC West, but the conference as a whole. There's a reason for that, and Hall of Fame quarterback Warren Moon doesn't disagree.

"You'd have to go with San Francisco right now," Moon said Thursday on 95.7 The Game's "Joe, Lo and Dibs" show when asked which team is the favorite in the NFC West. "I mean, they're the defending NFC champs. They bring back pretty much everybody from that football team. 

"They've lost a couple of receivers, but I still think they have a lot of good talent on their team. Their strength is going to be in their running game. I think their offensive line just got strengthened by signing (Trent Williams). So, they're going to be the team to beat, but this is going to be one of the more competitive divisions in the NFL.

"You've got Seattle, who's going to be right there. ... And then you always have the Rams, who you just don't know how good they're going to be. And then Arizona is going to be much more improved. So this is going to be a very, very competitive division, as it usually is."

[RELATED: Report: 49ers' Mostert requested pay raise this offseason]

The 49ers might be the deserved favorites in the division, but Moon is correct. The NFC West was tough enough last year, when San Francisco split the season series with the Seahawks and went down to the wire in both meetings with the Cardinals. As good as the 49ers are, claiming a second straight division title will be no easy task.

[49ERS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]