Cam Newton

Patriots Notes: Newton, Gilmore, Hightower

Shortly after the Patriots drafted Mac Jones in the first round, head coach Bill Belichick came out and said Cam Newton would remain the team’s starter until he was unseated. While a lot of coaches might express similar sentiments with respect to their veterans and not really mean it, Ben Volin of the Boston Globe writes that he doesn’t think “that’s just lip service” from Belichick. Newton didn’t play well in 2020, but he also had a poor supporting cast and Belichick seems to be genuinely fond of him. Volin believes that “the Patriots’ quarterback job is Newton’s until he gets hurt or is clearly holding the team back.”

He adds that at a “minimum” he doesn’t think the team will want Jones to “have to deal with the pressure of playing against Tom Brady in the big return game in Week 4.” Volin highlights the week after their Week 11 Thursday night game against Atlanta as a good time to potentially make the switch. We’ve previously heard that the Patriots are going to hold a true open competition in training camp between Newton and Jones, but Volin seems to think the vet is a somewhat heavy favorite in that battle. If Jones flashes in the preseason that could change things in a hurry.

Here’s more from New England as they look to bounce back from a rough 2020:

  • Last week Stephon Gilmore confirmed he isn’t happy with his current contract, saying “I just want what I’m worth,” but also said he wouldn’t be demanding a trade. Gilmore said he hoped his camp and the team could “find common ground” and get something done, and Mike Reiss of ESPN.com has an idea of what that might look like. Rather than outright adding guaranteed millions to his existing $7MM salary for 2021, “adding easily-earned incentives to Gilmore’s contract would fall most closely in line with the Patriots’ approach” in recent years, Reiss writes. He highlights how the team added millions in incentives to Rob Gronkowski and Brady’s contracts from 2017-18 to make their compensation more in-line with their market value as a potential blueprint. Reiss thinks the Pats would be more inclined to add incentives for this season rather than do a long-term extension because of concerns about their 2022 salary cap situation, as well as Gilmore’s relatively advanced age (31 in September).
  • Gilmore might not be the only member of this Patriots defense to have contract drama coming up. Star linebacker Dont’a Hightower opted out of the 2020 season due to COVID-19, and is set to make $8.725MM with another $2MM in incentives available when he makes his return this season. Volin writes that his “hunch” is that Hightower is “worried about the Patriots asking him to take a pay cut.” Hightower turned 31 in March, and obviously hasn’t played since the 2019 season. He did make the Pro Bowl that year and has been a leader in New England for a while, but the Pats have never gotten too sentimental in the past. Gilmore is getting most of the attention, but it sounds like this could be another situation to monitor.

Extra Points: Newton, Patriots, Williams, Bears, XFL

It was widely known that Patriots quarterback Cam Newton wasn’t his self physically during his last couple years with the Panthers. But he recently revealed just how bad his health situation was. In a video he just posted this past week (that was recorded in September of 2020), Newton said he hadn’t felt good in years, via Michael David Smith of ProFootballTalk.com. “Last time I’ve been healthy?” Newton said. “Honest, 2016.”

I threw an interception,” Newton explained, describing the shoulder injury he first suffered in December of 2016. “I tried to go make the tackle, and I tried to push him out, and I extended my arm, and I messed up my AC joint. And ever since then, there’s just been a part of me that’s just been a wounded dog. Like a wounded lion almost. Just, ‘I’m not right.’ I feel good at times, but when I’m running I still feel it. So instead of running them over, I’m going to turn this shoulder and just go down.” Newton went on to say that he had felt like the shoulder finally healed ahead of his 2020 season with the Patriots. Obviously that season didn’t go how anybody around the team hoped for, and it’s curious timing as to why Newton posted this video now. He’s expected to battle it out with rookie Mac Jones for the starting job in training camp.

Here’s more from around the football universe as we wrap up a sleepy Sunday:

  • Damien Williams was a hero in the Chiefs’ Super Bowl LIV win, but he opted out of the 2020 season due to COVID-19 and his mother having cancer. He was then released by Kansas City back in March, and promptly signed with the Bears within 10 days. It sounds like he knew exactly where he wanted to go, as Larry Mayer of the team’s official site passes along. “Sitting out a year and then coming back, I really didn’t want to learn a whole new system,” Williams said. “Coming here and kind of having the same system, same plays, it was easy for me.” Williams was referring to the similarity in Matt Nagy’s offensive scheme to Andy Reid’s. Nagy, of course, is part of the ever-growing Reid coaching tree, and was an assistant under him from 2008 all the way until becoming Chicago’s head coach in 2018. Clearly the familiarity was important to Williams, who turned 29 in April. With David Montgomery, Tarik Cohen returning from an ACL tear, and now Williams, the Bears should have a solid backfield in 2021.
  • We heard this past week that the XFL and CFL would not be pursuing a potential partnership/merger. That doesn’t mean we’ve heard the last of crossover talk. MLSE, the company that owns the CFL’s Toronto Argonauts, was the “catalyst for the XFL discussion,” within the league, sources told Dan Ralph of the Toronto Star. Ralph highlights the Argonauts breaking off and joining the XFL for their spring 2023 season as a possible solution. It’d be interesting to see, and could serve as a potential test-run for the NFL one day playing games in Toronto, something that has long been talked about.

This Date In Transactions History: Cam Newton Joins The Patriots

The Cam Newton era in New England effectively began one year ago today. On June 28, 2020, we learned that the former MVP was signing a one-year deal with the Patriots. While the contract was officially inked on July 8, we’re going to count today as the one-year anniversary.

Newton dealt with a number of injuries during his final seasons with the Panthers, including a 2018 shoulder relapse and 2019 Lisfranc surgery. After barely playing during that 2019 campaign, the Panthers ended up pivoting to Teddy Bridgewater, making their former first-overall pick expendable. The Panthers were unable to find a trade partner for Newton, and they ultimately cut the veteran in late March. Several months later, Newton finally found a suitor in the Patriots, who signed him to an inexpensive, prove-it deal.

Newton was entering a tricky situation with the Patriots. For starters, he was replacing a legendary quarterback in Tom Brady, and it was going to be a major uphill battle for any new signal-caller to somewhat replicate the production and success of the (then) six-time champ. Plus, Newton was limited to only a pair of games in 2019, and instead of getting a full offseason to fully rehab and learn a new system, he lingered in free agency for more than three months. In other words, Newton wasn’t necessarily put in a position to succeed.

Still, with only Brian Hoyer and Jarrett Stidham standing in his way, Newton predictably earned the starting gig. The veteran missed one game while recovering from COVID, but Newton otherwise saw time in 15 games for the Patriots. While the team had a solid 7-8 record with the 2015 MVP under center, Newton’s numbers were disappointing. He still showed his usual talent on the ground, collecting 592 rushing yards and 12 scores (plus a receiving touchdown), but he only threw for 2,657 yards, eight touchdowns, and 10 interceptions.

Following that 2020 performance, many assumed that Newton wouldn’t be in New England in 2021. However, the Patriots ended up re-signing the 32-year-old to a one-year pact that could be worth up to $13.6MM. Plus, following a 2020 season where Newton’s targets were mostly unproven, the team brought in a number of free agent weapons, including Hunter Henry, Jonnu Smith, Nelson Agholor, and Kendrick Bourne. This time around, it seems that the Patriots were actually putting their veteran in a position to succeed.

Of course, the difference this time around is that Newton faces some formidable competition from first-round quarterback Mac Jones. While it sounds like the Patriots may initially lean on Newton as their starter, it wouldn’t be a surprise if the rookie takes over if (or when) the veteran struggles.

With a year of hindsight, it’s tough to describe the Patriots/Newton pairing as a success. The two sides have a chance to reverse that narrative in 2021, but there’s a better chance that the veteran eventually finds himself as a backup.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Latest On Patriots’ Cam Newton

Cam Newton is set to participate in Patriots minicamp, including his full complement of reps this week (Twitter link via Jim McBride of the Boston Globe). That’s good news for the quarterback after he was forced out of OTAs earlier this month with a hand injury.

[RELATED: Were Patriots In On Julio Jones?]

Newton reportedly banged his hand against a teammate’s helmet, resulting in a painful bone bruise. The injury was said to be fairly minor from the get-go, though it could have impacted his availability for these early practices. Meanwhile, Newton needs the on-field time as he battles for the starting job with first-round pick Mac Jones.

Soon after landing Jones, head coach Bill Belichick said that Newton would be slotted as the starter until further notice. That’s a familiar refrain in the NFL, though younger guys often go on to beat out the established vets ahead of them.

Newton didn’t exactly inspire confidence in his first season with the Pats. The longtime Panthers star threw for just eight touchdowns against ten interceptions. On the plus side, he completed 65.8% of his passes, which was a better showing than most of his NFL seasons. The Pats still re-upped Newton, but his one-year carries just $3.5MM in guarantees.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

AFC East Notes: Jets, Newton, Bills

Although several veterans made a point to skip OTAs this year, Jamison Crowder is away from his team because of a contract issue. The Jets want their leading receiver of the past two seasons to accept a pay cut. Robert Saleh said the veteran slot receiver “definitely” has a role on the 2021 Jets, but SNY’s Ralph Vacchiano notes the pay reduction the Jets have in mind is “significant.” It would be interesting to see what the Jets do if Crowder balks, given their salary cap space (third-most in the NFL) and his potential value in helping Zach Wilson as a rookie. The 27-year-old wideout is due a $10MM base salary this season, which is the final year of his contract. GM Joe Douglas was not around when Crowder signed with the Jets, and the team used a second-round pick on presumptive Crowder slot successor Elijah Moore. The Ole Miss product stands to cut into Crowder’s workload this season, Vacchiano adds, so the Jets would appear to be comfortable moving on.

Crowder may end up hitting free agency at an inopportune time, should he not approve the team’s pay-cut request. If the Jets release Crowder, they would not incur any dead money. Here is the latest from the AFC East:

  • The hand injury Cam Newton suffered will end up impacting his offseason status. The Patriots quarterback is expected to miss time, Jeff Howe of The Athletic tweets. Given Newton’s extensive injury history, this would be notable even without Mac Jones‘ presence. But the prospect of Jones going through the rest of OTAs and minicamp with Newton sidelined figures to impact the Pats’ quarterback competition. New England’s minicamp is scheduled to run from June 14-16.
  • Staying on the quarterback subject, the Jets may need to consider an addition. Wilson’s two backups — 2020 fourth-round pick James Morgan and former UDFA Mike White — are not ready for a QB2 role, Connor Hughes of The Athletic writes (subscription required). The Jets, in Hughes’ view, need to acquire Nick Foles from the Bears. Douglas was with the Eagles during Foles’ memorable second Philadelphia stint, and Foles has become a nonfactor in Chicago. The Jets, however, are not planning any additional costly moves this year; Foles comes with an $8MM price tag. Foles-Jets buzz began brewing shortly after the Bears’ Justin Fields pick, however, and may continue if Morgan and White prove unqualified at Gang Green’s minicamp.
  • The Bills will rely on a group effort to replace Dan Morgan, who left his VP of player personnel gig in Buffalo to become Carolina’s assistant GM. Terrance Gray, Malik Boyd and ex-Texans GM Brian Gaine will split Morgan’s duties, according to Brandon Beane (via Maddy Glab of BuffaloBills.com). The Bills interviewed both Gray and Boyd and promoted each. Gray will rise from college scouting director to assistant director of player personnel; Boyd will shift from pro personnel director to senior director of pro scouting. Gaine remains in his senior personnel advisor role. Boyd interviewed for the Texans’ GM job earlier this year.
  • Buffalo also hired Princeton quality control coach Sophia Lewin as an offensive assistant, according to NFL senior director of diversity, equity and inclusion Sam Rapoport (Twitter link). Lewin and Andrea Gosper, who will rise from Bills scouting intern to player personnel coordinator for the team, caught on with the Bills through the NFL’s Women’s Careers in Football Forum.

Cam Newton Suffers Hand Injury

Cam Newton did not finish the Patriots’ Friday OTA practice after suffering a hand injury, putting his availability for the remainder of the Pats’ offseason program in question.

This injury is believed to be minor, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com, who notes Newton suffered a bone bruise on his right hand (Twitter link). Newton banged his hand against a teammate’s helmet during practice. Although this almost certainly will not impact Newton’s status for training camp, the malady may sideline him from some of the team’s remaining offseason work.

The Patriots have four more OTA days next week before their three-day minicamp, which is scheduled to run from June 15-17. With Newton in competition with first-round pick Mac Jones for New England’s starting job, any extended absence stands to factor into this equation. After the Jones draft choice, Bill Belichick declared Newton remained the starter until further notice.

The former No. 1 overall pick struggled in his first Patriots season, continuing a post-Super Bowl 50 descent that has heavily involved injuries. The Pats re-signed Newton this offseason, but the one-year deal only came with $3.5MM fully guaranteed. They then used the No. 15 overall pick on Jones. New England has 2019 fourth-rounder Jarrett Stidham and the recently re-signed Brian Hoyer on its roster as well.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Offseason Notes: Pats, Packers, Minicamps

As you’re surely well aware by now, this year’s NFL offseason workouts have been a point of tension between the NFLPA and the league. Many teams have announced their intention to skip workouts and proceed entirely virtually like they did last year. Lots of teams also issued statements saying that “many” of their players wouldn’t be attending, and one of those was the Patriots. Well New England started their program this past week, and now we have some details on which players showed up.

Most notably, Cam Newton was in attendance, according to Nicole Yang of the Boston Globe. Fellow Patriots quarterback Jarrett Stidham was also there. Yang points out that Newton has a $100K workout bonus in his contract, giving him some extra motivation. This will likely be something of a trend around the NFL, with quarterbacks wanting to take initiative and not be seen as slacking off. Newton isn’t assured the starting job in 2021, so it’s not surprising he’s doing everything he can to get on the coaching staff’s good side.

Here are some more updates on offseason programs:

  • One team that won’t have anybody showing up is the Packers. That’s because rather than having some in and some out, Green Bay has elected to have the entire first month of their offseason program be virtual, a source told Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com. Demovsky writes that the Packers will re-evaluate ahead of the start of the second phase of the offseason on May 17th. That’s when real on-field work is supposed to start, while right now programs are limited to weight room and conditioning work. The source also told Demovsky that players with workout bonuses “will be credited for attendance by logging on virtually.” Several high profile Packers have big bonuses, like Aaron Rodgers‘ $500K one, but as of right now we won’t get to see whether he would’ve chosen to show up or not.
  • The Titans became the latest team to announce they wouldn’t attend in-person workouts, issuing a statement via the NFLPA’s twitter. Their statement sounds nearly universal.
  • Even though we’re (hopefully) nearing the light at the end of the tunnel with the pandemic, it’s still having very real impacts on players, particularly the unheralded ones looking for a chance. The NFL has told teams they’ll be limited to a maximum of five tryout players at rookie minicamps next month, a source told Tom Pelissero of NFL Network (Twitter link). As Pelissero notes, in normal years there are usually dozens of players invited to tryout at rookie minicamps, and many of them often end up getting signed. Many of these non-priority UDFAs have gone on to be major contributors in the league. Rookie minicamps didn’t happen at all in 2020, so this is at least a small step in a positive direction.

Patriots Notes: Kraft, Newton, Stidham, Free Agency

The Patriots went 7-9 during the inaugural season of the post-Tom Brady era, making it the first time New England had missed the postseason since 2008 (when the team was forced to rely on Matt Cassel in place of an injured Brady). Robert Kraft and the entire Patriots brass are focused on getting back to the playoffs, and they made that clear when they handed out an NFL-record $165MM in guaranteed money during the early parts of free agency.

“What happened here last year was not something to our liking. We had to make the corrections,” Kraft said (via ESPN’s Mike Reiss). “In all the businesses we’re involved in, we try to take advantage of inefficiencies in the market. We were in a unique cap situation this year and it allowed us to try to [fix] things we missed, to a certain extent, in the draft. So this was our best opportunity.”

While Bill Belichick and the Patriots front office were able to patch some holes by spending in free agency, Kraft also acknowledged that this strategy isn’t a recipe for long-term success.

“In the end, if you want to have a good, consistent, winning football team, you can’t do it in free agency. You have to do it through the draft. I don’t feel we’ve done the greatest job the last few years and I really hope, and I believe, I’ve seen a different approach this year,” Kraft said.

Tight ends Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith, linebacker Matt Judon, and wideout Nelson Agholor were among the Patriots’ major free agent acquisitions.

Let’s check out some more notes out of New England:

  • Kraft seemed to excuse quarterback Cam Newton‘s uneven play in 2020, noting that the veteran was joining a new team during an abbreviated preseason, had COVID-19, and dealt with an inconsistent receiver corps. “In fairness to Cam, I’m not sure he had the proper weapons around him last year,” Kraft said. “I really do believe Cam getting COVID, and what it did to the team, it changed a lot. Now we’ll get a chance to see…Players on the team, in the locker room, really love the guy. In the end, I trust Coach Belichick’s ability to build a team, and put the right players in the best position to succeed.”
  • While the owner seemed to hint that Newton would be under center next season, he also kept the door open for former fourth-rounder Jarrett Stidham, who was expected to receive more playing time during his sophomore season. “I don’t know that Jarrett has ever really gotten a fair shot,” Kraft said. “We have to wait and see what happens, and we still have the draft. … Quarterback is the most important position on the team. One way or the other, we have to get that position solidified.”
  • While the Patriots certainly had the ability to spend on free agents, Reiss writes that Belichick’s “cachet” was a major reason why the Patriots were able to recruit players. “This opportunity couldn’t be passed up because of the prestige, being coached by some of the best coaches in the NFL,” said linebacker Raekwon McMillan. “Coach Belichick told me that he’s been watching my career. For a player, you’re talking to a Hall of Fame coach, that really inspired me.”
  • Former defensive coordinator Matt Patricia rejoined the organization this offseason as an assistant, but Reiss notes that the coach’s role has continued to evolve. Patricia has spent recent weeks helping to negotiate and finalize contracts, thus serving “as an added layer of support to Belichick,” per Reiss.

Latest On Patriots, Jimmy Garoppolo

The financial details of the Patriots’ new deal with Cam Newton make it clear that New England is leaving its options open with respect to the quarterback position, and the Jimmy Garoppolo rumblings continue to persist. In a recent appearance on the PFT PM podcast, Tom Curran of NBC Sports Boston said a New England-Garoppolo reunion remains a possibility even after the Newton re-up (via Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk).

Of course, the 49ers would need to make Garoppolo available via trade, and that situation is a little murky. San Francisco GM John Lynch said last month that he had no doubt Garoppolo would be his starting QB in 2021, but just a few days later, a report surfaced indicating that Jimmy G was still on the trade block.

According to Florio, the Niners continue to seek an upgrade, and if they find one, obviously Garoppolo would stand to be dealt. Though he would need to waive his no-trade clause, that probably wouldn’t be a problem if San Francisco brings in, or is planning to bring in, a player that could pose a threat to his starting job.

As Mike Reiss of ESPN.com points out, getting a legitimate quarterback under contract was key for the Patriots with free agency opening this week. Although there are plenty who believe Newton is simply not a viable starter anymore, he is still a beloved figure among players, and the Pats — who have among the most salary cap space in the league — figure to be active players in the market. The club has been connected to some of the top receivers and tight ends available, and those players would probably not even consider Foxborough if Jarrett Stidham was the only passer on the roster. So while the Newton deal doesn’t assure him of anything, it needed to be done.

For his part, Newton expects to take a major step forward in 2021 if given the opportunity. He recently posted a hype video to Instagram promising a return to form next season, and depending on how things shake out in free agency and the draft, he just might get that chance. If nothing else, the fact that the Pats brought him back suggests that the team believes he could look more like his old self with a better complement of weapons surrounding him.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Patriots Re-Sign QB Cam Newton

2:17pm: Newton’s contract marks a raise from his 2020 Patriots pact, but incentives comprise much of the deal. The former MVP passer’s accord carries a $5MM base value, Mike Garafolo of NFL.com tweets. This includes a $2MM signing bonus and $1.5MM guaranteed. The deal also contains $1.5MM in per-game roster bonuses, per Garafolo, who adds the other $9MM is tied to incentives.

9:45am: The Patriots will re-sign quarterback Cam Newton to a one-year deal, as ESPN.com’s Adam Schefter tweets. The new deal could be “worth close to” $14MM, though the details of the deal are unclear. 

Newton’s new contract will not preclude the Patriots from adding another quarterback this offseason, Schefter hears. From the sound of it, Newton’s base value is rather low, making this yet another low-risk/high-reward pact for the Patriots.

Newton joined the Patriots last offseason to replace Tom Brady. Starting in 15 games, Newton threw for 2,657 yards while completing 65.8% of his throws — more accurate than most of his NFL seasons. Unfortunately, he also threw for just eight touchdowns against ten interceptions.

Newton started strong, but the former MVP dovetailed later in the year. His COVID-19 interruption didn’t help matters; nor did injuries to Julian Edelman, David Andrews, and Rex Burkhead. All in all, Newton went 7-8 as a starter and the Patriots finished 7-9.

Still, Bill Belichick reportedly loved coaching Newton. Despite concerns about his arm strength and his long-term health, the Patriots were happy to re-up Newton for another low-cost season.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.