You gotta hand it to Bill Belichick and the Patriots. Even with Tom Brady no longer in the fold, New England continues to shock, surprise and dominate NFL headlines.
Late Sunday evening ESPN reported the Patriots signed the biggest remaining fish on the free-agent market: former Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton. It’s an incentive-laden one-year deal for the bare minimum. If Newton reaches all of his incentives, the contract will be worth $7.5 million.
Newton, 31, has a star-studded résumé. He won the Heisman Trophy in 2010 at Auburn, was drafted first overall by the Panthers in 2011, went to three Pro Bowls and won the MVP award in 2015 when he led Carolina to a 15-1 record and a Super Bowl appearance. In his career, Newton has thrown for 29,041 yards, 182 passing touchdowns (plus 58 rushing touchdowns) for a quarterback rating of 86.1.
However, Newton was limited to just two games last season due to a foot injury before being released by Carolina in late March. Newton has since passed a physical and is now healthy. In recent weeks he has posted impressive workout videos and conducted throwing sessions with Odell Beckham Jr.
In many ways, the signing of Newton is a classic low-risk, high-reward Belichick move. Instead of spending big money on a free agent to replace Brady, Belichick waited out the market and bought low on a depreciated asset for pennies on the dollar. Newton falls in the category of a highly talented reclamation project with something to prove and a massive chip on his shoulder, similar to Randy Moss or Corey Dillon in years past.
Newton will compete with second-year pro Jarrett Stidham and 11-year veteran Brian Hoyer for the starting job. However, it looks as if Newton has the inside track. A week ago Stidham was a -330 favorite to start for the Pats in Week 1 at DraftKings, with Hoyer 3/1 and Newton 17/2. But now Newton is a -400 favorite with Stidham 3/1 and Hoyer 25/1.
Sportsbooks have quickly adjusted Patriots futures in a positive fashion. Prior to signing Newton, the Patriots and Bills were co-favorites to win the AFC East at +120 at FanDuel. New England is now the sole favorite at +105, with Buffalo dipping to +160. Both teams were 23/1 to win the Super Bowl, but now New England is 17/1 and Buffalo has fallen to +32/1.
At William Hill the Patriots moved from 25/1 to 18/1 to win the Super Bowl and 10/1 to 8/1 to win the AFC.
BetMGM updated a plethora of Patriots betting specials after the signing, including exact season wins. The Pats are 35/1 to win 0 to 4 games, +130 to win 5 to 8 games, -150 to win 9 to 12 games and 18/1 to win 13-16 games. In other words, New England going 9-7, 10-6, 11-5 or 12-4 is the favorite.
Before adding Newton, the Patriots’ 2020 win total was either 8.5 or 9 depending on the sportsbook. BetMGM immediately increased the win total to 9.5 (Over +105, Under -125). The Patriots are now -223 favorites to make the playoffs (+180 to miss the postseason).
New England is now 20/1 to lead the NFL in regular-season wins at BetMGM, trailing only the Chiefs (4/1), Ravens (4/1), 49ers (7/1), Saints (8/1), Cowboys (11/1), Bucs (11/1) and Eagles (13/1).
Newton also finds himself near the top of the list for Comeback Player of the Year. He is now 9/2 to win the award at BetMGM, trailing only Ben Roethlisberger (7/2). Rob Gronkowski has been the runner-up since joining the Bucs but has since slipped to 13/2.
Newton’s MVP odds moved from 65/1 to 35/1 at FanDuel. Belichick is the favorite to win Coach of the Year at 10/1 at BetMGM.
If Newton resurrects his career and leaves New England after just one season, the Patriots could recoup a compensatory draft pick. That could come in handy after the NFL docked the Patriots a third-round pick in the 2021 draft as punishment for illegally videotaping a Bengals-Browns game in December of 2019.