Even as news of the Newton signing rippled through the sports world — all attributed to unnamed sources — the Patriots declined to confirm they have added the former No. 1 pick and NFL most valuable player to their roster. Nonetheless, even the club’s website, Patriots.com, heralded the signing.
That Newton, the erstwhile centerpiece of the Carolina Panthers, reportedly signed a one-year deal that will pay him as much as $7.5 million this season rankled a fellow NFL icon. Ten starting quarterbacks will make at least $20 million more than that this season.
Tweeted San Francisco 49ers cornerback Richard Sherman: “How many former League MVPs have had to sign for the min? (Asking for a friend.) just ridiculous. A transcendent talent and less talented QBs are getting 15/16m a year. Disgusting”
How many former League MVPs have had to sign for the min? (Asking for a friend.) just ridiculous. A transcendent talent and less talented QBs are getting 15/16m a year. Disgusting https://t.co/eZycGL8qkZ— Richard Sherman (@RSherman_25) June 29, 2020
Newton brings his share of risk. Beset by foot and shoulder injuries, he played just two games last season, 14 the year before, and is five years removed from his MVP season. Stylistically, he’s the polar opposite of the immobile Brady, although the Panthers had tried to transform their offense in recent years to be less reliant on Newton’s running and more on his passing.
Still, it was a punishing brand of football for the 6-foot-5, 245-pound Newton, involved in more than 1,200 collisions in games since he was the top pick of the 2011 NFL draft.
“People throw up the stat about how many times Cam’s been hit,” said former Carolina center Ryan Kalil, who snapped the ball to him for eight seasons. “But I’ve seen those in real time and I don’t think it’s accurate to say times he’s been hit. I would argue there’s a good amount of those where he was doing the hitting.
“I watched a lot of guys bow down from him and not want to take all of that. Because he is a large individual. He has the highlights of all the moves and spins and jumps, but people forget what an imposing, physical athlete he is. When he first walked on the field, he looked bigger than some D-ends that we played against.”
The Patriots have yet to acknowledge signing him, let alone promoting him to starter, but it’s hard to imagine Newton not claiming the top job over second-year Jarrett Stidham or journeyman Brian Hoyer.
It remains to be seen, though, how Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels will mold the scheme to fit Newton’s strengths. This isn’t a case of plugging in a system quarterback the way New England did with Matt Cassel when Brady missed the season with a shredded knee in 2008.
Hall of Fame quarterback Kurt Warner sees some similarities between his path and Newton's, with the way the onetime St. Louis Rams star reinvented himself in Arizona after a bumpy stretch with the New York Giants.
"I was a two-time MVP who had been to two Super Bowls in three years," Warner said, "and two years later I'm looked at as damaged goods and I'll never be the same player that I used to be and never play at that level. I think that's very much how people see Cam.
"After the injuries that [Newton] suffered and the way he played, 'Oh, he's never going to be the same guy.' So I think there's a perception around the league that the best of Cam Newton has been played. Us as competitors, we've lived our entire lives saying, 'Give me an opportunity to compete.' "
This could be a career second wind for Newton. It was that way for Junior Seau, Rodney Harrison, Randy Moss and Corey Dillon, all of whom had been stars in other places yet had lost some luster only to rediscover it with coach Bill Belichick and the Patriots.
Newton has passed for 29,041 yards and 182 touchdowns and has run for 4,806 yards and 58 touchdowns in his career.
“There's an aspect of Cam's game that will fit in well there that's not this dynamic-running-quarterback kind of stuff where people are saying this is drastically going to change their offense,” said Kalil, a former USC standout. “I genuinely believe Cam will assimilate to the play calling and the type of offensive system that they'll want to continue to run.
“Is it going to be guns blazing right out the gate? I don't know. There's the question of lack of offseason and prep time that will weigh in. There's a lot of work ahead on that.”
In an Instagram post Sunday night, Newton wrote: “I’m excited as I don’t know what right now!” and included the hashtag “#LETSgoPATS.”
Said Kalil: “He's not afraid of work. He's one of the few teammates I've had where it's not a 9-to-5 job, it's an obsession. … And that's the kind of guy you want on your team.”