When Cam Newton’s one-year deal with the Patriots was first reported, Richard Sherman called it both “ridiculous” and disgusting”. Now that the specific details of the incentive-laden contract have been revealed, Sherman was on point with with adjectvies.
Newton is guaranteed only $550,000 for 2020, NFL Media’s Ian Rapoport reported Thursday. The contract does have a maximum value of $7.5 million, but it has a base of only $1.05 million. To get anywhere near the max, Newton will need to earn $700,000 per-game roster bonuses and hit $5.75 million in incentives.
When Newton signed his second contract with the Panthers in 2015 before leading them to the Super Bowl as NFL MVP, he received $41 million of his $103.8 million contract over five years guaranteed. Playing in only two games for Carolina because of a foot injury in 2019, he still was paid $16.7 million.
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So the best he can do with New England is make less than half of what he got last season. Around the league, there are 23 quarterbacks guaranteed to get paid more than Newton in 2020, and another 22 who have the potential to end up earning more than him.
That’s a shocking dropoff in pay for someone who got began his career with a $22 million all-guaranteed four-year contract as the No. 1 draft pick in 2011, when the league’s current rookie salary structure went into place.
The Saints got the ultimate bargain basement deal when they signed Jameis Winston, the 2015 No.1. overall pick, earlier in the offseason. His one-year contract for $1.1 million had only $148,000 guaranteed with $4.7 million available in incentives that Winston is unlikely to meet, given his reserve status behind Drew Brees.
Winston accepted, after a 30-interception season, that he wasn’t in the mix for post-Buccaneers starting job and put himself in a situation to potentially reraise his salary past his rookie standards for New Orleans in 2021. Unlike Newton, there is zero chance barring injury that Winston will start this season.
Even though Newton isn’t guaranteed to start over second-year QB Jarret Stidham, given his upside when healthy for a team without a surefire replacement for Tom Brady, Newton was thrown the lowest of lowballs.
The Patriots are shrewd when it comes out handing low-risk, high-reward contracts to fallen big-name players. Given Newton was a free agent for nearly 100 days since his release with the Panthers, they likely sensed they were the only team willing to offer Newton a deal to stay in the NFL in 2020, allowing them to set his market. With Newton’s durability issues, there was even more reason, in Patriots’ minds, to justify the cheapness.
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In a league where QBs all get keeping getting paid, the fact Newton had to settle like that seems ludicrous. But the law of supply and demand also was working against him, in an unusually busy year for both free-agent veterans of note and first-round rookies.
Newton had no leverage in the situation, and the Patriots, given the lack of movement, could wait until as late as possible before training camp to make their move. In the end, a myriad of factors didn’t add up the money Newton should have gotten.
Keep in mind the Patriots had some reservations about giving Brady the type of deal he wanted to end his career in New England, and he’s the GOAT. They were part of the perfect storm of the offseason to guarantee Newton getting well below what he might be worth to them this season.