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Patriots, Cam Newton, Bill Belichick

3 takeaways from the New England Patriots signing Cam Newton

The New England Patriots and quarterback Cam Newton agreed to terms on a one-year contract.  The deal is reportedly for the league minimum, but the former NFL MVP can earn up to $7.5 million in incentives.

Newton spent the first nine years of his career with the Carolina Panthers. Arguably the best player in Carolina’s history, the former No. 1 overall pick reached three Pro Bowls, captured the 2011 Rookie of the Year award and earned Most Valuable Player honors in 2015.  Newton produced career-bests in TD passes (35) and passer rating (99.4) in ’15, leading the Panthers to a 15-1 record and an appearance in Super Bowl 50.

A litany of injuries over the past few seasons made Newton expendable. He appeared in just two games last season, battling multiple foot ailments, including a Lisfranc fracture. The Panthers cut the 31-year-old in March.

By signing Newton to a contract, the Patriots snatched the best remaining free agent quarterback off the market. Here are some initial thoughts on the move.

Patriots begin post-Tom Brady era with a bang

The Patriots lost Tom Brady in free agency, as the six-time Super Bowl champion and three-time league MVP left for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Brady served as the Patriots’ signal-caller for 20 legendary seasons. Replacing Brady is a near-impossible task, but adding a former MVP into the quarterback mix is quite the way to do it.

Newton is, undeniably, an exciting talent. He has accumulated 4,806 rushing yards in his career, eclipsing 500 yards in a season six times. Newton has rushed for 58 touchdowns. Despite having some accuracy issues, Newton is an above-average passer, racking up 29,041 yards and 182 touchdowns with Carolina.

Starting QB job likely still Jarrett Stidham’s to lose

While Newton brings an impressive résumé to town, don’t pencil him as the Week 1 starter just yet. Jarrett Stidham, a 2019 fourth-round pick, could still be the team’s No. 1 QB on the depth chart. According to Jeff Howe of The Athletic, the Patriots’ decision to sign Newton had “nothing to do with Stidham’s performance.”

Stidham only logged 15 snaps in his rookie season, so the sample size is too small to judge him one way or the other. He did, however, shine in last year’s preseason. He completed 61-of-91 passes for 731 yards with four touchdowns and an interception. According to metrics by Pro football Focus, Stidham earned the sixth-highest overall passing grade (72.2) of the 2019 preseason.

Signing Newton could push Stidham to become a better player. There will be a real quarterback competition now, unlike when Brian Hoyer was the presumptive No. 2 QB.

The Patriots opted against selecting a quarterback in the NFL Draft, proving the team has confidence in Stidham.

Cam Newton’s value a no-brainer

Inking a former MVP to an incentive-laden deal is a great business move by Bill Belichick and the Patriots. Newton’s upside and low cost made this an investment too good to pass up on.

Newton will be given a chance to compete for the starting quarterback position this summer. Even if he can’t nail down the starting gig, he could be utilized in red zone situations. His dual-threat ability would mix well with the Patriots’ running back corps, headlined by Sony Michel, James White and Rex Burkhead.

Newton has never been a problem in the locker room or off-the-field during his NFL tenure, so it’s not as if the Patriots are taking a chance by bringing him into the fold. It’s the ultimate low-risk, high-reward scenario. Why not sign a player like Newton on a cost effective, short-term deal and hope for better health moving forward?