Stephen A. Smith explains why Cam Newton could produce 'big-time dividends' for Patriots

Stephen A. Smith explains why Cam Newton could produce 'big-time dividends' for Patriots

Cam Newton was a free agent this offseason for a very long time.

Several months went by and none of the 32 NFL teams agreed to sign him until reports surfaced Sunday night of the New England Patriots and the 31-year-old quarterback coming to terms on a one-year contract worth up to $7.5 million.

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Newton was released in March by the Carolina Panthers, and despite his extraordinary talent and impressive body of work over nine seasons with the NFC South franchise (including a 2015 NFL MVP), there surprisingly weren't many suitors for him in free agency, according to reports. 

ESPN's Stephen A. Smith loves the move for both the Patriots and Newton. Whether it is Newton's motivation to prove his doubters wrong, his dual-threat skill set, or New England's elite coaching staff, Smith sees the Patriots as a great spot for Newton to resurrect his career.

"I loved it," Smith said Monday on ESPN morning show "Get Up!" "I loved it because I know what a tremendous athlete Cam Newton is. I know how hungry he is to really shut up the naysayers that have questioned his level of greatness and what he’s produced throughout his career. A combination of that, with not just the greatness of Bill Belichick but a highly-motivated Bill Belichick, who’s out to prove that he can indeed win without Tom Brady as his quarterback. I think all the stars have aligned. I love the idea of these two together. I think he can help Cam Newton be a better quarterback. I think Cam Newton, although not the passer Tom Brady has been throughout his illustrious career, I don't think there's any question that Tom Brady is not in his stratosphere as an athlete -- the ability to move the chains and the ability to run with the football and make things happen with his legs. The dual-threat Cam Newton will present at the quarterback position with Bill Belichick and Josh McDaniels as your offensive coordinator, I think it can produce some big-time dividends for the Patriots. 

"I’m excited for Cam Newton, particularly since he’s highly-motivated and since so much about him has been questioned. Because him and Bill Belichick right now might be two of the top three most motivated people in the entire NFL, with Tom Brady obviously being in that top three as well.”

The Patriots have been given plenty of bulletin board material all offseason.

Oddsmakers put the Buffalo Bills ahead of them to win the AFC East next season. Lots of experts also have given a variety of reasons for why the Patriots won't be a legit Super Bowl contender without Tom Brady. One former player even predicted the Cleveland Browns would be better than the Patriots in 2020.

Newton, as Smith pointed out, also has been doubted all offseason. He has plenty of critics to prove wrong, and that's why this move has the potential to be a stroke of genius by Belichick. If it works out, a healthy Newton could help the Patriots make a surprisingly deep run in the AFC playoffs next season. If it doesn't work out, the Patriots can move on with Jarrett Stidham at quarterback without having sacrificed a ton of salary cap space to give Newton a chance.

Newton is only 31 years old and his last good season was just two years ago in 2018. He should have plenty of gas left in the tank, and with head coach Bill Belichick and offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels leading the way, Newton could have a tremendous bounce-back season in 2020. Perhaps that's why oddsmakers have made him one of the favorites to win the Comeback Player of the Year Award.

Jerod Mayo was 'shocked' by Dont'a Hightower, Patrick Chung opt-outs

Jerod Mayo was 'shocked' by Dont'a Hightower, Patrick Chung opt-outs

When he heard the news that Dont’a Hightower and Patrick Chung were opting out of the 2020 season, Jerod Mayo had the same reaction most people did. 

"I was shocked, disappointed -- a bunch of emotions went through my head initially," said Mayo, who played alongside and is friends with both men.

"Then I took a step back and looked at each situation. These are personal decisions. Obviously, Hightower took a step back and examined his personal situation and so did Chung and I totally respect the decision. I know coach (Bill Belichick) already talked about it.”

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Speaking on a video conference call Friday morning, the Patriots inside linebackers coach said the leadership and play of both players will be missed but added that, “From a football standpoint, you just gotta treat it like an injury.”

“We’ve always had that 'next man up' mentality and that’s how we’re approaching it going forward,” said Mayo. “With that said, even though those guys have opted out, those guys will still continue to mentor some of the younger guys. Guys who haven’t played as much ball.

"And I can totally appreciate it. Hightower is one of the smartest football players I’ve ever been around and so is Chung. Those guys are not here with us this year on the field but they are still around.”

Mayo saluted the work the organization has done in getting the facility prepared for dealing with football during a pandemic. 

“The staff has done a fantastic job,” he said. “One thing I’ve always respected about this organization is they don’t just try to solve these complex problems in-house, they go out and ask other people what they’re doing. 

“When I walk around the building, I feel safe and I think the players do, as well,” Mayo continued. “I think they’ve done a fantastic job. Our operations people deserve a shout-out.

"This is such a fluid situation. Things change, whether it’s the CDC changing guidelines or any of that stuff. It changes so much and those guys have done a great job around the building so guys feel safe and coaches feel safe.”

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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.

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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.

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"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.