Cam Newton finally found a new job, but did the New England Patriots find their replacement for Tom Brady at quarterback? Bill Belichick took a flier on Newton by signing the former MVP to a one-year deal worth $7.5 million.
After winning six Super Bowl titles in 19 seasons in New England, Brady departed in free agency. When Brady decided to shack up in Tampa Bay with the Buccaneers, the Patriots were left with untested backup Jarrett Stidham.
Newton, 31, played only two games last season after suffering a foot injury. He hid the severity of the injury, but it cost him the majority of the season.
“It’s hard for me to have energy when I’m hiding something,” Newton said last season. “I feel like I’m in the game, but it’s like something’s different. I’m not able to play this game like I want to.”
Newton missed the final two games of the 2018 season with a shoulder injury. He had surgery to repair it, but the nagging foot injury hampered him in 2019.
According to William Hill, the New England Patriots were 20/1 odds to win the 2021 Super Bowl before the news about Newton broke. After the Pats signed Newton, their Super Bowl odds jumped to 16/1.
Superman > CMAC
The Carolina Panthers selected Cam Newton with the #1 overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft. He won the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year with 35 total touchdowns (21 passing, 14 rushing). During a magical season in 2015, Newton won the MVP and guided the Panthers to a berth in Super Bowl 50. The Panthers lost to Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos, and Newton missed his only shot at a championship in Carolina.
After a disappointing 2019 season with a 5-11 record, the Panthers opted for a total reboot of the franchise. They fired “Riverboat” Ron Rivera and brought in a new head coach, Matt Rhule from Baylor.
The Panthers also determined that the Newton era had run its course when they signed ex-Saints QB, Teddy Bridgewater, to a three-year deal worth $63 million. Bridgewater stepped up for the Saints when Drew Brees injured his thumb in Week 2 of the 2019 season. Bridgewater went 5-0 as a starter and saw his free-agent stock rise to new heights. The Panthers were quick to snatch up Bridgewater as their new QB.
The Panthers went all-in on Christian McCaffrey. CMAC, a dangerous dual-threat out of the backfield, will become the team’s new focal point after receiving a lucrative contract extension in the offseason. The Panthers made McCaffrey the NFL’s highest-paid RB at $16 million per season.
With the team headed in a new direction, the Panthers released Newton. Initial rumors suggested the Chicago Bears were interested. The Bears punted on the Mitch Trubisky experiment and were shopping for a quarterback. The Bears passed on Newton and acquired Nick Foles in a trade with the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Another Auburn QB in Foxboro
Newton had limited options, but the Patriots were one of them. Once the Bears grabbed Foles, everyone assumed Newton would end up with the Patriots. Did anyone in the greater New England area really think Jarrett Stidham would become the heir apparent to Tom Brady?
As a rookie, Stidham saw limited action in his first season. However, Belichick selected him for a reason with a fourth-round pick in the 2019 NFL Draft. Stidham, who turns 24 before the start of the season, needs more time to develop. It’s evident that the Pats could win now with Newton, so long as he’s healthy.
Stidham began his collegiate career with Baylor before he transferred to Auburn. The Pats now have two ex-Auburn quarterbacks on the roster with Newton and Stidham.
Newton played only one season with Auburn in 2010, but won the Heisman Trophy that year. He tossed 30 touchdowns and added 20 more rushing scores. In two seasons as a starter at Auburn, Stidham threw 36 touchdowns and rushed for seven more TDs.