Patriots

NFL Rumors: Patriots set to sign ex-Packers fullback Danny Vitale

NFL Rumors: Patriots set to sign ex-Packers fullback Danny Vitale

The New England Patriots used a linebacker (Elandon Roberts) at fullback for much of 2019.

They may go the more traditional route in 2020.

The Patriots are close to a contract agreement with free-agent fullback Danny Vitale, NESN's Meredith Gorman reported Friday.

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Vitale spent the last two seasons with the Green Bay Packers, appearing in 15 games in 2019. He saw increased reps in Green Bay's passing attack last season, catching seven passes for 97 yards for an average of 13.9 yards per reception.

The 26-year-old came to the Packers via the Cleveland Browns, who signed Vitale off the Buccaneers' practice squad in 2016 after Tampa Bay drafted him in the sixth round out of Northwestern.

New England has a Pro Bowl fullback in James Develin, but the 31-year-old veteran went on injured reserve with a neck injury after Week 2 of last season.

Develin's status for 2020 remains unclear, and while the Patriots may just want to add depth at the position, their reported pursuit of Vitale could be a sign that Develin's health still is in limbo.

Either way, it appears head coach Bill Belichick still wants a fullback in his offense after Tom Brady's departure to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

One of Cam Newton's ex-Panthers teammates says Patriots QB 'still has it'

One of Cam Newton's ex-Panthers teammates says Patriots QB 'still has it'

One of Cam Newton's former teammates on the Carolina Panthers thinks the veteran quarterback is still capable of great things as he enters a new chapter of his career with the New England Patriots.

Newton reportedly has agreed to sign a one-year contract with the Patriots worth up to $7.5 million. He was released by the Panthers in March after spending the first nine seasons of his career in Carolina.

"Man, I was happy for Cam," Panthers linebacker Shaq Thompson recently told NFL Network's Colleen Wolfe. "I hated that it took so long for him to get signed. He's an MVP quarterback. Cam still has it. I'm happy for him. I'm glad the Patriots invested in him, and I can't wait to see Cam Newton come out there and play."

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Thompson and Newton were teammates for five seasons, including Thompson's rookie campaign in 2015 when Newton won league MVP and led the Panthers to Super Bowl 50.

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Thompson is not the only former or current player predicting success for Newton in New England. Ex-Patriots wide receiver Deion Branch thinks Newton will "erupt" and have a "crazy season" as a player motivated to prove his doubters wrong. Hall of Fame wide receiver Randy Moss said the Patriots offense will be a lot of fun to watch with Newton at the helm.

There are reasons to believe Newton will thrive with the Patriots. Just two years ago he completed 67.9 percent of his passes for 3,395 yards and 24 touchdowns. He played at an MVP level for the first eight games of 2018 before a shoulder injury derailed his season.

Health is always going to be the main concern with Newton, especially after he missed 14 games in 2019 due to injuries. But if healthy, the Patriots should be getting a top 12 quarterback who gives the offense a dual-threat skill set we have rarely seen in New England.

NFL Rumors: How Patriots stayed under salary cap with Cam Newton deal

NFL Rumors: How Patriots stayed under salary cap with Cam Newton deal

The New England Patriots entered last weekend with just $651,000 in cap space, the lowest amount of any NFL team.

So, how the heck were they able to sign a former NFL MVP?

It's a fair question after New England reportedly inked free-agent quarterback Cam Newton to a one-year contract Sunday. We discovered more details on Newton's deal Wednesday, per reports: He has a base salary of $1.05 million ($550,000 of which is guaranteed) with incentives that can bring his earnings up to $7.5 million.

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According to Boston.com salary cap expert Miguel Benzan, the Patriots have $263,489 in available cap space following Newton's signing. If you're wondering how Newton's deal cost New England less than $400,000 in cap space, Benzan would like to refer you to the "Rule of 51."

The "Rule of 51" in the NFL's collective bargaining agreement is pretty straightforward: During the offseason, only the players with the 51 largest cap hits for the season are counted toward the salary cap.

Newton's deal -- which carries a $1.14 million cap hit, per Benzan -- bumps practice squad defensive lineman Tashawn Bower out of the top 51, meaning his $750,000 deal currently doesn't count against the cap.

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So, the Patriots effectively replaced Bower's contract with that of Newton, a difference of just under $400,000.

The "Rule of 51" only applies to the offseason, so Bill Belichick may have to do more maneuvering before the regular season begins. But as Benzan recently pointed out, Newton's incentives could be classified as "not likely to be earned," which means they wouldn't count against New England's 2020 salary cap even if he reaches them.

In any case, it's remarkable (or "disgusting," if you ask Richard Sherman) that New England was able to land a three-time Pro Bowl QB like Newton for such a discount.

The 31-year-old was hampered by shoulder and foot injuries over the last two seasons, though, which apparently scared other teams away before the Patriots swooped in Sunday.