There are a lot of reactions you can have to the Patriots signing Cam Newton.
The national sports media reaction: "Oh no! Belichick pulled one over on the NFL again! From Brady to Cam! Hope the Bills enjoyed their offseason of thinking they stood a chance!"
The local sports fan reaction, a.k.a. the why-did-I-let-the-Boston-sports-media-talk-me-into-Jarrett-Stidham reaction: "What gives? Does Stidham suck or something?"
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You'll continue to see both of those quite a bit in the coming days, but here's mine: I think the Patriots signed Cam Newton because he was cheap and because there's never been a season in NFL history where quarterback depth was more important.
That's not to say Newton can't or won't win the starting job. If he's vintage Newton, it'll be his.
But if he's as questionable as, say, a league MVP with health concerns so bad that he had to sign a one-year, incentive-laden deal that would cap out at paying him 27th among quarterbacks? Well, then he's simply an intriguing option that could go in any number of directions.
The Patriots have bought low and struck gold before on a big-name player considered a has-been. Randy Moss is the gold standard there, so it's easy to feel optimistic with this one, too.
But in reality, I'm not ruling out the Patriots still trying to see what they have in Stidham. If he's close to Newton, he'll be the guy because he's cheaper and he's signed beyond the season.
And that wouldn't make Newton a bad signing. I'd still think it's a great signing, because the first season of the COVID era could be messy. Players are going to test positive and miss time, and the virus doesn't care which position these guys play. That's why teams like the Saints and Colts, who have multiple legitimate starting quarterbacks on their rosters, might have a leg up on a lot of other teams.
I've long wanted the Patriots to use this season to see what they have in Stidham, which would probably take 10 or more games. If he struggles, isn't ready or gets sick, Brian Hoyer (whom I think the Patriots should keep on the roster), isn't a strong enough insurance policy. Newton provides an additional and better option.
Now, the Stidham experiment could get tricky if Newton begins the season under center. With all due respect to Hoyer, it would probably be easy to sit him after a few games. With Newton, though? Would average play be enough to warrant a benching? And would he even give the Patriots average play considering that the last season he was healthy (2018), his performance was very close to that of Tom Brady?
It's not a bad problem to have if your goal is to win the AFC East and contend for a title. A healthy Newton trying to earn a big contract could easily be the best quarterback in the division. He could theoretically start most or all of the season, earn a payday and set up Stidham to finally become the starter after two seasons on the bench.
Or Newton could not be healthy, not be good or just not be as promising as Stidham in training camp, making him an inexpensive backup.
Best case, they're both good and Stidham is so much better that the Patriots know they have their guy. Worst case, Newton starts all season, leaves at season's end and the Patriots either draft a quarterback or sign a veteran to compete with Stidham. Remember, the Pats are set up rather nicely financially after next season.
The point is that this signing can't hurt. That the Patriots went all offseason only signing Hoyer at quarterback showed that they were prepared to enter the season with Stidham as their best option. That another good, cheap option came along isn't an indictment of that plan.
It's just another option, and a good move at that.