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Patriots coincidentally gain $7 million in cap space after signing Cam Newton

Mike Florio analyzes the incentives in Cam Newton's contract and explains that in order for him to earn the full $7.5M, he will have to be an All-Pro and win the Super Bowl.

Some would say it’s a coincidence that the Patriots signed quarterback Cam Newton before resolving a pair of grievances that freed up $7 million in cap space, at a time when the Patriots were cap strapped. Others would say that, with the Patriots, there are no coincidences.

Consider the timeline. Newton’s bargain-basement deal, with a base salary of $1.05 million and an upside of $7.5 million that requires him to essentially be both the regular-season MVP and the Super Bowl MVP to earn all of it, gets finalized, and then the Antonio Brown and Aaron Hernandez grievances get resolved.

As one source with extensive knowledge regarding the way the NFL’s sausage gets made explained it to PFT, the Patriots likely told Newton’s agents -- repeatedly -- that they could offer nothing more than what they were offering because they had nothing more. Then, days after the contract with Cam became official, they got another $7 million in cap space that, if they’d had it before signing Newton, would have made it harder to sell the idea that the contract Cam accepted is the best the Patriots could do.

Of course, this doesn’t mean the Patriots will spend that $7 million in 2020. They’ll need up to $5.75 million of it for 2021, to address Newton’s incentives. Given the possibility that the cap will drop next year, the surplus could come in handy if carried over. The Patriots already are in good shape for 2021 in the event the cap drops; the $7 million (if saved) puts them in even better shape.

And that’s another reason why the Patriots are the Patriots. Other teams would have resolved the grievances, created the cap space, and then gotten squeezed into paying Newton more money. The Patriots likely had a strategy, they implemented it, and they got Newton to agree to terms at a time when there truly wasn’t enough cap space. Now, there’s more.

It’s just one of the various reasons why they’ve won six Super Bowls in the past 20 seasons.