The Patriots dropped a Sunday night bombshell on the NFL, signing free agent quarterback Cam Newton to a one-year deal, a league source confirmed.
The deal, which could be worth up to $7.5 million, means more moves are coming as the Patriots are snug against the salary cap with approximately $650,000 available.
Newton, arguably the most high-profile player left on the open market, was released March 24 by Carolina, where he spent the last nine seasons after being drafted with the first overall pick in 2011.
The NFL’s 2015 MVP now gets a chance to revitalize his career by winning the job held by Tom Brady for the last 20 seasons. Brady signed with the Buccaneers in March.
An excited Newton took to his Instagram account just before 10 p.m. Sunday:
“I’m excited as I don’t know what right now!! All praise to God!! Dropping content tomorrow!! I hope you’re ready!! #LetsgoPats.‘'
Newton, 31, was the MVP when he led the Panthers to a 15-1 regular season and a spot in Super Bowl 50, where they fell to the Broncos, 24-10, in Peyton Manning’s professional finale. Newton threw for 3,837 yards and 35 touchdowns during that signature campaign.
Newton, who won the national championship and the Heisman at Auburn, has thrown for 29,401 yards with 182 TDs and 108 interceptions as a professional. One of the most athletic players to ever play the position and among the league’s top dual-threat QBs, the 6-foot-5-inch, 248-pounder has 4,806 rushing yards and added 58 TDs.
He was owed $21.1 million on the final year of his contract when new Panthers coach Matt Rhule decided to go in a different direction, signing Teddy Bridgewater to a three-year deal. Carolina will still absorb a $2 million dead-cap hit.
Newton joins a crowded QB room in Foxborough, with fellow Auburn alum Jarrett Stidham, Brian Hoyer, J’Mar Smith, and Brian Lewerke already in the fold.
The signing was a big hit with Patriots players, who were active on social media within minutes of the news breaking.
Cornerback Stephon Gilmore, the league’s reigning defensive player of the year, tweeted popular eyeball emojis, while Devin and Jason McCourty retweeted Gilmore’s post with a double set of eyeballs.
Left guard Isaiah Wynn, who could be blocking for Newton, tweeted the prayer hands emoji.
“Bill [Belichick] always says your goal is to have as many good players as possible and Cam Newton is a former MVP of this league,” Jason McCourty said Sunday night during the “Double Coverage” podcast he hosts with his brother, Devin. “He played in a Super Bowl, he’s that caliber of a player. So, I think the better players we have in our locker room, the better we’re going to be able to perform as a team.”
Devin added he was happy to not have to play against Newton, who has a 2-0 career mark vs. the Patriots, and that he wasn’t stunned by the move.
“I’ve said it for weeks, I’m never shocked by anything we do as a Patriots organization — everything we do is always in the thought process of trying to win and win championships,” he said. “I think that’s what it comes down to, trying to make the team better. I’m never surprised when we’re trying to do that. Hopefully when we get together, everything goes as planned, and we can try to win games.”
Count receiver Mohamed Sanu as in favor of Newton’s addition.
“This is crazy. I think it’s great,‘' he told veteran NFL reporter Josina Anderson. “He can help the team in so many ways. He’s a big, powerful leader. All he has to do is go be Cam. He’s an MVP.”
In addition, Jets Pro Bowl safety Jamal Adams tweeted his congratulations to Newton, while adding, “I salute Coach Bill Belichick for that!”
Devin McCourty warned against assumptions about anybody having the inside track on replacing Brady. As always in New England, it’ll be determined on the field.
“I think when you add a guy like Cam Newton, it makes our quarterback room even better. We’ve spoken about it before, the poise and the jump and leap you expect Stiddy to make,” Devin said about Stidham, who served as Brady’s backup in 2019. “It’ll be [an] interesting training camp – competing. I would think adding him to our quarterback room with Hoyer. You have veterans in there. You have young guys in there. I think it’ll give us a really good chance to be good at that position. It’s always great to have a bunch of good players.‘‘
Newton played in just two games last season after suffering a Lisfranc injury that originally surfaced, coincidentally, during an exhibition game against the Patriots at Gillette Stadium in August.
Newton played 14 games in 2018, though he was particularly hampered by a shoulder injury the quarterback acknowledged at the end of a six-game losing streak that torpedoed a season that started 6-2. Through the first seven games, Newton had thrown for 13 TD. Newton had surgery and was poised for a bounce back year before the foot injury.
The signing is a low-risk, high-reward gamble by the Patriots. If Newton doesn’t perform well, it doesn’t cost the team a ton. If he wins the starting job, performs as he has for most of his career, and signs as a free agent after the season, New England could acquire a third-round compensatory pick in 2022, which could help offset the 2021 third-rounder the club lost for the videotape violation in Cincinnati.
The $7.5 million figure is notable as several backup QBs have signed similar deals recently, including Bridgewater with the Saints in 2019 and Marcus Mariota with the Raiders this offseason.