Let's hold off on overreactions after Patriots' signing of Cam Newton

Let's hold off on overreactions after Patriots' signing of Cam Newton

Well, we should have seen this coming.

Within the first 48 hours of the Patriots buying a scratch ticket to boost an uncertain group at quarterback, we're hearing and seeing things like this:

- Super Bowl back on!

- Well, looks like they didn't have any faith in Stidham!

- Boy, the rest of the NFL is stupid for not signing this guy!

I like the Cam Newton signing a lot, but we're breezing past, ya know, the facts of the situation here.

Download the MyTeams app for the latest Patriots news and analysis

It's hard to separate the name from the reality. Newton was a great quarterback the last time he was healthy, so the idea of the Patriots losing one star (Tom Brady) and replacing him with another (Newton) and keeping the train rolling is easier to digest than what actually happened.

And the idea that it means they don't like Stidham? Stop it.

Newton, if you believe the reporting, went the entire offseason without any offers. Why? Because right now he's an uncertainty as he comes off multiple injuries.

And uncertainty is what the Patriots had. They had a second-year quarterback in Stidham who had yet to start an NFL game and a low-ceiling backup in Brian Hoyer. In the most important season ever for quarterback depth (because of COVID), the Patriots were playing with fire.

Signing Newton adds another uncertainty, but increases the odds of having stability at the position. "One of Newton and Stidham will work out" makes more sense than saying "Stidham will just have to work out," right? It's another dart to throw.

The rush to declare this means they don't like Stidham is shortsighted. They went the entire spring (free agency and the draft) without adding competition for Stidham. All this time, they've been leaving Newton free to sign with any other team.

And when they signed Newton, they gave him... the league minimum. So ask yourself this: Does that really sound like they think Newton is a savior at the position? Or is he cheap insurance that, if he goes off, could be an All-Pro making just $7.5 million thanks to incentives?

If Newton wins the job, which he should if he's healthy, that still doesn't mean they don't like Stidham. It means they weren't married to Stidham, but we already knew that. They weren't married to Tom Freaking Brady.

Listen and subscribe to Tom E. Curran's Patriots Talk Podcast:

We in New England apparently have some trouble with understanding a quarterback's value. We went from "wait until you see the line of teams willing to kick their quarterback to the curb for Brady!" (nope, he only got two offers) to "Cam Newton to the rescue!" (he was basically free).

I'm not saying Newton won't work. Hopefully he does. I'm saying this is a scratch ticket, which the Patriots obviously feel is the case. Otherwise, they'd have signed him earlier. Newton is a perfect fit for what the Patriots need, which is a cheap player with high upside who can join a quarterback room lacking competition.

So if you feel like it, go ahead and celebrate the signing as though it's the Pedro trade, which brought a 26 year-old Cy Young winner to Boston to save the franchise. But the logistics of it are more like the Red Sox signing John Smoltz and Mark Prior, guys trying to resurrect their careers, to one-year deals for low money.

Big names are enticing and Newton can be a star, but a fixer-upper on a minimum deal is some rocky foundation on which to build declarations about the Patriots' future.

Jarrett Stidham not backing down with Cam Newton around: 'I'm definitely ready'

Jarrett Stidham not backing down with Cam Newton around: 'I'm definitely ready'

For the better part of three months this offseason, there was no evidence to suggest that Jarrett Stidham wouldn't be The Next Guy in New England. 

The initial wave of free agency came and went. The draft came and went. Still, the 2019 fourth-round selection out of Auburn looked like the choice to replace Tom Brady. Bill Belichick hadn't brought in anyone else outside of Brian Hoyer and two undrafted rookies.

Sure, it was a lot to ask of a Day 3 draft choice who had taken zero snaps of consequence as a rookie. But it looked like the Patriots believed he could be their starter.

Download the MyTeams app for the latest Patriots news and analysis

Then on June 29, news broke that the Patriots signed Cam Newton. Stidham was in Texas, visiting family, when he heard.

"Tom (Brady) deciding to go to Tampa, signing Cam and everything . . . it's just kind of a wild offseason," Stidham said. "But I would say my routine hasn't changed at all. My work ethic has kind of been the same throughout everything that's going on.

"I've just really tried to focus on being a good teammate and working as hard as I possibly can to really improve this offseason. It's been a wild ride this offseason, but happy to be back in the building with everybody and kind of get rolling here."

And happy to compete, he explained. 

Even with one of the most gifted quarterbacks in modern NFL history now present in the Patriots meetings, Stidham told reporters Friday he still feels as though that job -- the one that looked like his from the end of March through the end of June -- is up for grabs.

He didn't hesitate when asked if he believed he still had a chance to be named the starter with a good performance this summer.

Patriots Talk Podcast: Measuring the toll that opt-outs took around the NFL | Listen & subscribe | Watch on YouTube

"Absolutely," he said. "I think I'm definitely ready. I think I've put a lot of work in this offseason to really improve. Mentally, physically and really in a lot of different areas. But at the end of the day, I'm extremely excited to compete with Cam and Hoy as we go forward in training camp and get into the season and things like that.

"I'm really looking forward to the competition. I love competing in whatever it is so I'm really looking forward to it."

And then there was this answer, to a question about his relationship with Brady, where Stidham -- purposefully or not -- shed some light on the fact that he still likes his odds of being The Next Guy.

"I don't really look at it as replacing Tom Brady," he said. "I just want to be myself and I want to be a leader for this team and be the best teammate that I can be for this team. I don't really look at it that way."

Stidham even went so far as to say that he was "excited" when the Patriots signed Newton. Though the rest of the world saw the acquisition as an impediment to Stidham's promotion, he says he took a different approach. 

"What a great opportunity to compete with another great player," Stidham said. "To compete with Hoy and Cam. I was actually really, really excited for the opportunity ahead."

Maybe that's lip service. Maybe that's a young player trying to convince himself there's a real competition ahead. 

But at times on Friday's WebEx press conference, Stidham sounded like he believed he had a real crack to be the No. 1. Even with a superstar 6-foot-5, 245-pound former MVP who wears No. 1 now counting himself among Stidham's teammates.

Why Cam Newton is so excited about 'surreal' opportunity with Patriots

Why Cam Newton is so excited about 'surreal' opportunity with Patriots

Cam Newton didn't particularly enjoy going unsigned for four months in free agency. But he seems very pleased with where he finally landed.

During his first video conference with reporters since signing with the Patriots last month, Newton shared his first impression of New England. Surprise: it was a positive one.

"I was just blown away by the overall professionalism of the Patriots organization, starting with Robert Kraft, with Coach (Bill) Belichick as well as with (offensive coordinator) Coach Josh (McDaniels)," Newton said. "I do know I was in L.A. (when the Patriots called me) and it kind of caught me by surprise. But at the same time, I enjoyed this whole process."

Download the MyTeams app for the latest Patriots news and analysis

Newton has massive shoes to fill after Tom Brady led New England to nine Super Bowl appearances and six championships over the last two decades. He also has a chip on his shoulder playing on a bargain contract with the Patriots after 31 other teams wrote him off this spring due to potential injury concerns.

For all of Newton's confidence in his ability to silence his critics, though, the 31-year-old still finds himself marveling at where he ended up.

Patriots Talk Podcast: Measuring the toll that opt-outs took around the NFL | Listen & subscribe | Watch on YouTube

"I'm still constantly -- I don't want to say in disbelief, but it's just a surreal moment," Newton said. "Nobody really knows how excited I am just to be a part of this organization in (more) ways than one.

"Following up such a powerful dynasty that has so much prestige and lineage of success -- a lot of people would hide from the notion to do certain things, but for me, I think this opportunity is something that I wake up pinching myself each and every day."

Newton has spent about a week at his new workplace as the Patriots continue Phase 1 of training camp at Gillette Stadium. And as he alluded to on Instagram last week, he's fired up about simply pulling into the parking lot.

"It's so surreal coming down 1 Patriot Place each and every day and seeing the whole ambience," Newton added. "Not only that, but seeing so much support around the city of Boston and Foxboro. It's just such a great environment."

Newton is a nine-year NFL veteran with three Pro Bowls and a Super Bowl appearance under his belt, but like his Patriots predecessor, a change in scenery appears to be giving him new life.