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Patriots sign QB Cam Newton: Evaluating the low-risk, high-reward move

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The Patriots have officially returned to the conversation when it comes to the NFL’s most interesting quarterback rooms, signing former Panthers QB and league MVP Cam Newton to a one-year deal.

According to the NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, Newton is heading into Foxborough on a deal worth up to $7.5 million, joining a depth chart that includes a fellow Auburn alum in Jarrett Stidham, veteran QB Brian Hoyer, and two rookie QBs in J’Mar Smith and Brian Lewerke.

Since Newton’s departure from the Panthers and Tom Brady’s trip down to Tampa Bay to join the Buccaneers, the Patriots have been rumored to be in the market for a veteran quarterback to either sit behind or start in front of Stidham for the 2020 season.

However, those rumors dissipated when Bill Belichick and company brought back Hoyer after the quarterback’s one-year tenure with the Colts.

Then, a few months later in the midst of some downtime in the NFL’s offseason, Belichick and the Patriots’ front office struck, signing Newton about a month before teams are scheduled to report for training camp.

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The move itself isn’t shocking, but how perfectly it worked out for the folks in New England may be the surprising part of it all.

First things first, the deal is precisely the definition of a low-risk, high-reward move. The Patriots have reportedly been pleased about heading into 2020 with Stidham as their starter, and it seemed as if bringing in a familiar face in Hoyer would be enough of a push to energize the second-year quarterback.

Now, the Newton signing adds some new wrinkles to the situation. It either signals a sense of doubt when it comes to the offense’s future with Stidham under center, the desire for a real quarterback competition that Hoyer couldn’t provide, or simply wanting a former league MVP as a backup quarterback on a cheap deal.

In any of those scenarios, the Patriots wind up with a quarterback that Belichick feels is a long (enough)-term solution to help them succeed in 2020, and they don’t lose any serious money in the process.

Stidham is still on a cheap rookie deal, Hoyer only clocks in at $1.05 million, and the rookie combination of Smith and Lewerke may not be around long enough to see a preseason game. Newton’s deal may seem like a boatload with all that considered, but it’s incentive-based, implying that he will either perform at a high-level or not cost much at all if it doesn’t work out.

It all keeps opponents guessing in the long-run, with the potential for the Patriots to ditch a passing-based system they’ve utilized for two decades with Brady under center. Stidham seems like the solution if that’s what Belichick wants to replicate, but the Jacoby Brissett game against the Texans during Brady’s 2015 suspension shows what the offense can do with a physical, mobile quarterback to work with.

On top of it all, the Patriots have been known to take risks when it comes to talented players looking to prove themselves. Wide receiver Randy Moss proved his worth when he went to Foxborough after his time with the Raiders, cornerback Darrelle Revis did the same before his return to the Jets, and even Antonio Brown showed off his on-the-field talents in his one-game stint with the Patriots in 2019.

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Away from the field, there may be some long-term plays that the Patriots are operating with, as well, especially if Newton winds up sticking around for the entirety of the 2020 season.

On the same night the news of Newton’s signing came out, it was announced that the NFL had fined the Patriots and taken away a third-round pick in the 2021 NFL Draft as a result of a videotape violation during the 2019 season.

But, if Newton leaves as a free agent after a successful 2020 season, the team could pick up a third-rounder for the 2022 draft instead, per ESPN’s Adam Schefter. In the long run, it would provide Belichick the opportunity to kill two birds with one stone: Get a high-quality rental that leads to some success, and flip that investment for a lost pick, as well.

All in all, the move makes sense on a lot of fronts for the Patriots, both on the field and off of it. Newton can either be the starter the Patriots need to fill the void Brady left back in March, or he can serve as a mentor for the team’s long-term plan in Stidham, who happened to go to the same college.

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First things first, it’ll make for an interesting positional battle when the league returns to action in July, and bring the Patriots back into the limelight before the beginning of a serious rebuild in New England.

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