No team in the NFL cheats more brazenly than the New England Patriots, and no coach is trickier than the ever-sly Bill Belichick, who outdid himself over the weekend.
While the rest of the NFL continued its ongoing brainstorm in search of new ways to praise Colin Kaepernick while simultaneously ignoring him, Belichick sidled up to Cam Newton offering a cup of warm lemonade and a half-bag of Fritos in exchange for a signature.
And much, much less than the Lions paid in March to bring in career backup Chase Daniel.
To borrow a line from the "H2Ogate Blues" of the late, great poet Gil Scott-Heron, this is the NFL being the NFL: "It follows a pattern, if you dig what I mean."
Belichick got his man, on a make-good contract. And his roster now includes a legitimate starting quarterback that turned 31 years old in May, for a contract that will cost them a fraction of the $25 million the Indianapolis Colts threw at 38-year-old Philip Rivers.
Or, to be more pointed, a fraction of the $25 million the Buccaneers begged Tom Brady to take upon becoming a free agent in 2020.
If Cam has a nice season, the incentives in his one-year contract, as reported by NFL Network, will push his deal to about $7.5 million. In which case Newton would slide into the same salary tier as oft-ridiculed Bears quarterback Mitch Trubisky, who has a fraction of the Cam's gifts.
Don't blame Cam or his representatives for taking the deal. If he wanted a near-lock opportunity to start, he had to sign. He probably would not have gotten more money from another team, and any chance of that would have meant going to a place with little chance to succeed.
Can't blame Belichick, either. Applaud him for knowing the league's quarterback-money game is rigged, a pattern that rewards solemn white mediocrity -- see Blaine Gabbert, Matt Barkley and Daniel, to name four -- while lowballing the likes of superior but "risky" black quarterbacks, such as Newton, Winston and Kaepernick.
Oh, yes, there is a double standard. How else to explain Daniel -- with five career starts -- getting three years at $13 million, while Newton and Winston each get a one-year trial at a combined max of $10.9 million? How else to explain Kaepernick, who accomplished more in one season than Daniel has in 11, not getting a call in three years?
Belichick did what he does better than any coach in NFL history. He studied his competitors, saw their weaknesses and exploited them.
Signing Newton was an easy call for Belichick because 1) He understands and truly admires talent and 2) He doesn't give a flit what anybody else thinks. He might have gone after Kaepernick had Newton not agreed to come aboard.
To be fair, Newton has to prove he has recovered from shoulder surgery 18 months ago and foot surgery seven months ago. He insists he's ready to go. His former coach with the Carolina Panthers, Ron Rivera, who reportedly considered bringing Newton to his new team in Washington, believes in the quarterback that got him to his only Super Bowl in 2016.
"You've got to know. The foot and the shoulder will be the two biggest concerns everybody has," Rivera told Jay Glazer of Fox Sports a few weeks ago. "I will say this, though, from the people that are around him that I know, they've all said the same thing to me. They've said, 'Coach, he looks great. He really does.' And they also told me, 'He's a little bit different.' His whole attitude -- he's got something to prove.
"And I will say this: The one thing about Cam Newton with an edge for something to prove, don't ever bet against him."
The potential payoff is massive. Cam has started 131 games, including seven in the postseason. His resume includes video evidence of him outthrowing most fellow quarterbacks, outrunning opposing linebackers and running through opposing defensive backs.
Rarely does Belichick allow himself a public smile, having perfected the role of the android, concealing his feelings behind a face of granite. No doubt, though, that as much of the NFL assumed the Patriots were done as contenders, Belichick was giggling.
Spygate, Deflategate, various PED infractions -- Tuck-Rule-gate, anyone? -- are all in the past.
After taking advantage of the overt and covert biases of others and getting Cam for cheap, we imagine Bill spent the weekend grinning into his favorite beverage. Why not? It's not cheating when your competitors let you do it.
Cam Newton's cheap Patriots contract follows ugly pattern for Black QBs originally appeared on NBC Sports Bay Area