For months, Cam Newton languished without a team. The 2015 NFL MVP’s stock had fallen so far not a single team moved on him when the Carolina Panthers released him back in March. Finally, in late June, Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots came calling. Now, just two months in, and not only have the players embraced Newton, they have recognized him as one of the team’s official leaders. It’s a very encouraging sign for Patriots fans and an ominous one for the rest of the NFL.
Cam Newton languishes in limbo
Cam Newton’s time with the Carolina Panthers was special. The No. 1 overall selection of the 2011 NFL draft spent nine seasons with the club where he established himself as one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL. The high point came in the 2015 season when he won NFL MVP and guided the Panthers to Super Bowl 50.
But football is a business. More specifically, a what have you done for me lately business. In recent years, Newton’s injuries — Lisfranc foot injury that ended his 2018 season and cost him 14 games in 2019 — and his absence from the field weren’t good for business. New head coach Matt Rhule arrived from Baylor and made a business decision. He wanted to take the team in a new direction. In March, Newton was out.
Despite his recent rash of injuries, most experts believed that someone of Newton’s talent would promptly land a job with another team. It didn’t happen. For months, he languished in limbo.
There were rumors he might land with one team or another, but then talk died down. As more time passed, the conversation switched to Newton and his willingness to serve as a backup. It didn’t help that he was unable to visit with teams in person because of a raging pandemic.
Cam Newton signs with New England Patriots
Cam Newton’s wait ended in late June when he agreed to a one-year deal with the Patriots worth $1.05 million, the minimum salary for a player of his experience, with $550,000 guaranteed. He can earn up to $7.5 million in incentives and playing time bonuses.
For the Patriots and Bill Belichick, it was a smart move. For a minimal amount of money, the team not only added a quality quarterback to their roster, but someone who could immediately battle for the starting position against second-year quarterback Jarrett Stidham and long-time backup Brian Hoyer.
For Newton, he was just relieved to have an opportunity to play, much less play with an organization that has been the NFL’s best for the better part of two decades.
Newton voted captain after two months
Since Cam Newton’s arrival in New England, he has been on the receiving end of effusive praise from head coach Bill Belichick and numerous players, including veteran Patriots wide receiver and team captain Matthew Slater.
“Cam has been a joy to be around,” Slater told the Boston Herald. “He brings positive energy to work every day. He loves his job. He’s just a fun guy to be around. I’m glad that we’ve gotten a chance to spend some time with him as a teammate and really get to know him.”
Slater’s not alone. That was made evident on Thursday when the players voted Newton, one of eight team captains. It was an unprecedented move in Patriots history. Junior Seau arrived in 2006 and was not named captain until 2007. Same thing with Randy Moss, who showed up in 2007, only to earn captaincy a year later.
Cam Newton has unmistakably made a huge impression in Foxboro. How that translates to the field, only time will tell. But the combination of his clean bill of health, a rejuvenated career in a new setting, and working within a Josh McDaniels-Bill Belichick offense, the Patriots could be just as explosive as they have been in years past. And that’s a scary proposition for the rest of the NFL.