The Patriots signing Cam Newton to a one-year, incentive-laden deal can be summed up in six words.
“What do we got to lose?”
And that goes for both sides.
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Newton had no better options. The Patriots? Well, they may have no better quarterbacks, since the battle currently is between The Project (Jarrett Stidham) and The Journeyman (Brian Hoyer).
Getting a former MVP to take a lowball deal, even if he does wear absurd hats and — in recent years — couldn’t hit water if he threw it from the end of the dock? What’s the harm in that?
What if it works? Hell, it’s 2020. You really can’t rule out anything this year, can you?
In April, this was something that — while not ruled out — was deemed a remote possibility. Post-Brady, conversation about the Patriots’ quarterback group would turn inexorably back to Newton. Sources told me I was safe to assume that wasn’t happening.
Yet it still kept bubbling up, most notably with former Patriots executive Mike Lombardi writing for The Athletic.
"Still, if Newton’s medical and price tag aligns with the Patriots’ salary cap thinking, I would never rule them out as potential suitor," Lombardi wrote. "Newton could play well in New England. He would have to accept the structure and culture, but his love of football and his love of winning would allow him to adapt."
Seemed like a lot of “Ifs” to clear. But with July upon us, they’ve apparently been cleared.
“Only makes us better,” a source told me Sunday night. “The best man will play.”
The Patriots now have three very different options who’ll show up at camp at the end of July. Theoretically.
Stidham is a fourth-rounder with great arm talent, nice leadership skills and very little experience. That train is going to bring a bumpy ride but may wind up in a nice spot. Hoyer knows what he can and can’t do. He won’t lose games for you. Neither will he singlehandedly win them. Newton? He can do that. Or he used to.
Newton’s been collecting dust since the Panthers released him on March 24 after failing to find a trade partner. Which was somewhat understandable. Newton was a soon-to-be 31-year-old quarterback who played in just two games last year because of a Lisfranc injury (midfoot if you don’t want to Google it). In both 2017 and 2018, he was less-than-Cam because of a shoulder injury. In 2016, he just sucked.
So, being four seasons removed from his MVP season in 2015, coming off a five-year, $103-million deal and likely expecting to be the starter, it seems teams figured he was too beat up, too expensive and the wrong fit.
But for the cash-strapped Patriots? Even if he’s a bit offbeat, not real accurate and makes Jarrett Stidham jumpy, who cares? The Patriots starting job isn’t exactly Stidham’s birthright. He’ll get over it. And if he doesn’t, well he wasn’t the right guy. And Brady was a bit eccentric.
As for Newton's accuracy? That’s an issue.
Which is why I don’t see Newton as being the easy favorite to win the job.
Even if the Patriots look different offensively than they did with Brady, accuracy, decision-making and treasuring possessions are still the coin of the realm. Newton — and Stidham — will be able to do things with their legs that Brady couldn’t. But neither will be able to do things pre-snap, post-snap, on-time and with the accuracy that Brady did. And that is what’s made the Patriots offense what it’s been.
Newton isn’t a technician. He’ll throw from weird release points, his footwork can be bizarre and he’s completed more than 60 percent of his passes just twice in his career. Power, size, running ability and arm strength set him apart.
But as he got more beat up running the read-option, his running prowess diminished. And the shoulder injuries took the heat off his fastball.
So Newton finds himself in the position of being a reclamation project. Surely it wasn’t what he wanted when the Panthers told him he could seek a trade on March 17. And a one-year, incentive-loaded deal has to be somewhat insulting.
Never mind the fact he’s going to be told to compete with a couple of guys with résumés that will likely never match his.
If he can get his head around all that and play like 70 percent of the Cam Newton who dominated the NFL in 2015, those two don’t stand a chance.
Personally, I wouldn’t bet on that happening.
But less than a week from the Fourth of July, with no other options out there, why not?
What do they have to lose?