Richard Sherman said it was “ridiculous” and “disgusting” that Cam Newton had to settle for an incentive-laden contract from the New England Patriots that was well below what a quarterback of Newton’s stature should normally get.
He’s not wrong.
There’s a reason Chase Daniel was trending on social media Monday. The most obvious comparison in quarterback deals is Daniel signing a three-year, $13 million deal with the Detroit Lions this offseason while Newton had to settle for a “bare minimum” one-year deal that can be worth as much as $7.5 million, according to NFL Network. Daniel has become masterful at getting huge deals as a backup quarterback; he has seven touchdowns and five interceptions over 218 career attempts and already has $34.3 million in estimated earnings. That’s before the Lions contract. And he doesn’t have an MVP award like Newton. He’s nowhere near the player Newton is. But he keeps cashing in.
Many QBs got deals larger than Cam Newton did
Three players signed free-agent deals you’d expect from starting quarterbacks.
Teddy Bridgewater signed a contract for $63 million over three years from the Carolina Panthers, Tom Brady signed a two-year deal worth $50 million with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Indianapolis Colts signed Philip Rivers to a one-year, $25 million deal (h/t to Spotrac for contract details). Dak Prescott got the franchise tag worth about $31 million and still has until July 15 to sign a long-term extension with the Dallas Cowboys, so we’ll see how that turns out.
Let’s also include Nick Foles. The Chicago Bears traded a fourth-round draft pick and restructured Foles’ deal for $21 million guaranteed over three years. Presumably they could have had Newton, the better player over their careers, for a much cheaper cost in terms of money and the pick.
Those deals are all justified. The three QB deals that justify Sherman’s ire? Daniel, of course. Also, Marcus Mariota signed a two-year, $17.6 million deal with the Las Vegas Raiders and Case Keenum signed a three-year, $18 million deal with the Cleveland Browns. All three of them will be backups to start the season. None of them are anywhere near Newton as a player. That’s indisputable. All of them got much better contracts than Newton.
Newton waited, but his options never got better. The Patriots weren’t interested in Newton until he “softened his contract demands,” according to Jeff Howe of The Athletic.
Daniel had no problem getting another $13 million, but Newton had to sign a minimum deal. That’s tough to justify.
Why did Newton have to settle for such a small contract?
Newton and Winston went a similar route. They signed one-year deals for very little — Winston got a $1.1 million deal and will become the first quarterback in the Super Bowl era to lead the NFL in passing yards to change teams and to not start the following season — presumably in hopes of finding a better market next offseason. That will likely end up being better for them than signing a multi-year deal for a little more money per year.
Newton was likely hurt by not being able to work out for teams during the coronavirus pandemic. He had foot surgery last year and his health isn’t certain. There also weren’t many teams in the market for a starting quarterback after the initial moves in free agency. Newton is better than many starters, but teams have talked themselves into who they have or a young player who isn’t proven yet.
Franchises also have a strange stubbornness when it comes to signing quarterbacks for depth. Every NFL team would be better in 2020 with Newton making the league minimum. But teams worry so much about the feelings of their other quarterbacks that they don’t add good QBs even when they’re cheap, though they’d be thrilled to do it at any other position. The Los Angeles Chargers, for one example, would have been a wonderful fit for Newton but they passed. Teams get stuck on old-school groupthink with quarterbacks and aren’t willing to deviate from it.
Even with those reasons, it’s still crazy Newton couldn’t get more. Assuming even moderate health he’s better than Bridgewater, Foles and any of those backups. Brady has obviously had a better career than Newton, and Rivers arguably has too, but both showed signs of decline last season and Newton is much younger than either one.
Newton probably deserved more money, but the NFL didn’t present that option to him. He’ll try again next offseason.
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