Cam Newton certainly hasn’t given New England Patriots fans much to cheer about this season. In reality, the former Carolina Panthers quarterback has looked more like a practice squadder rather than a former league MVP.
Despite all of his struggles, Newton has shown some chemistry with a receiver who started his NFL career catching passes from him in Carolina. And on Thursday Night Football, the former No. 1 pick helped Damiere Byrd earn an extra $150,000.
Damiere Byrd started his NFL career in Carolina
Undersized but incredibly quick, Damiere Byrd’s impressive workout numbers still didn’t earn him a call on draft day. However, he signed as an undrafted free agent with the Panthers. The South Carolina product spent essentially his entire rookie season on the practice squad.
Byrd caught just one pass in his second year in the league before he saw a fairly substantial uptick in playing time in year three. After playing just 11 offensive snaps in 2016, Byrd played 186 snaps and finished the year with 10 catches for 105 yards and two touchdowns. The explosive playmaker also scored a rushing touchdown and a kick return touchdown in 2017.
However, Byrd didn’t get many more opportunities to catch passes from Cam Newton. In his final season in Carolina, he played just 44 offensive snaps. In total, he caught 12 passes for 129 yards in three years with the team.
From Arizona to New England
After a rather nondescript start to his NFL career, Damiere Byrd took his talents to the Arizona Cardinals. That decision turned out to be a great one for the speedy receiver.
In his only season playing for Kliff Kingsbury, Byrd set career-highs across the board. He suited up in 11 games (three starts) and caught 32-of-46 targets for 359 yards and a touchdown. He played 43% of the Cardinals’ offensive snaps—a substantial increase from his previous career-high of 17% in 2017.
But given his uninspiring career numbers, Byrd entered free agency without a ton of buzz. Still, that didn’t stop him from finding a new NFL team.
In late March, the Patriots signed the 27-year-old to a one-year contract. ESPN’s Field Yates reported that Byrd’s deal included a $350,000 signing bonus and a base salary of $1 million. That represented a nice raise for the veteran wideout, who made just $720,000 in his lone year in Arizona.
And thanks to language in his contract (along with some help from Cam Newton), Byrd made an extra $150,000 on Thursday Night Football.
Cam Newton helped his former Panthers teammate earn an extra $150,000 on Thursday Night Football
The drop-off from Tom Brady to Cam Newton has been sizable, to put it kindly. The Patriots have struggled all year to move the ball through the air, which has played a major factor in the team’s 6-7 record.
But if there’s been a “bright spot” in the passing game other than Jakobi Meyers, it’s certainly been Damiere Byrd.
Despite playing in a run-first offense with a bad quarterback, the sixth-year pro has already surpassed his previous career-highs in targets, catches, and receiving yards.
In fact, Byrd has been so productive (relatively speaking) that he put himself in a position to score a big-time bonus heading into Thursday Night Football.
When Byrd signed with the Patriots, the team put reception-based incentives in his contract. And thanks to his chemistry with Newton, he just made an extra $150,000.
Newton connected with Byrd five times for 48 yards in the Patriots’ 24-3 loss to the Rams. In doing so, he helped his former teammate surpass 40 receptions for the season; Byrd now has 42 catches in 13 games.
By hitting that 40-catch incentive, Damiere Byrd earned an extra $150,000 on Thursday Night Football, according to Patriots salary cap expert Miguel Benzan.
Unfortunately for the Patriots, Newton’s lack of chemistry (or effectiveness) continues to hurt the offense. But unless Bill Belichick pulls a complete 180, expect Byrd to keep catching passes from his former quarterback in Carolina the rest of the season.