Bill Burt: Cam signing not popular but makes sense

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Bill Burt, The Eagle-Tribune, North Andover, Mass.
·3 min read
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Mar. 12—What do we know, on March 12, 2021, about your New England Patriots?

They probably aren't winning the Super Bowl, never mind the AFC East. Could they squeak into the playoffs next January, via Bill Belichick's other acquisitions and schemes? Maybe. If I had to guess, probably.

While that might not sound OK in Titletown, USA ... a k a New England — where it's "Championships or bust" — the macro view (the future) is more important, like it or lump it, than the micro view (now).

When it was announced on Friday morning that the Patriots signed Cam Newton to a one-year, $14 million deal, there was a lot of groaning.

The popular "In Bill We Trust" response was sparse.

Former Patriots quarterback and current radio analyst Scott Zolak, probably speaking for the vast majority of New Englanders tweeted out, "Way to ruin a gorgeous Friday."

So let's give this a shot, defending Belichick and the decision to bring back Newton for one year.

First off, there is little to no risk. The contract is incentive-laden with big dollars for awards and playoff wins.

What that means is that if Newton earns anywhere close to $14 million, Patriots fans will probably be happy.

Secondly, the Patriots are devoid of leaders and "faces of the franchise" as of now. While Matthew Slater, Devin McCourty and Julian Edelman are captains, they play positions not suited for leader-of-the-team roles.

Quarterback is the position and Newton, according to his teammates, is that guy.

The head coach is the head coach. A big reason for the Patriots successes the last two decades have been the leaders inside the locker room.

It means having a locker room that can handle a player with character/coachable issues — see Corey Dillon, Randy Moss, and Aqib Talib, among the most well-known and successful here.

Tom Brady just being on the team was tantamount for new, at-risk players, buying in or else.

Newton is not Brady, but he has won in this league and is universally accepted as the leader of the team. That's something Ryan Fitzpatrick, Andy Dalton and Teddy Bridgewater don't bring to the table.

Patriots running back Damien Harris, who showed some star potential in 2020, tweeted "I LOVE IT HERE!!" immediately after the signing was announced.

Thirdly, Patriots offensive coordinator, Josh McDaniels, probably signed off on this move, believing the COVID-19 issues and the lack of legitimate top tier receiving options played into a lot of his struggles.

And remember, Newton was originally signed on June 28, 2020, which means, without mini-camps and closed facilities he wasn't able to master the playbook.

The caveat to all this is Newton is an end to a means. As of now, he is not the long-term solution, which could change if he surprised everyone with better technique, accuracy and, in the end, results.

The Newton signing allows the Patriots the ability to draft a young quarterback and bring him along properly. Remember Brady didn't start a game until late September of Year 2.

The Patriots finished 7-9 a year ago, without a few key starters — linebacker and captain, Dont'a Hightower, and offensive tackle Marcus Cannon — whom will return in 2021.

In a perfect world, for those that disagree with this signing, Newton maxes out and leads the Patriots to a 10-6 record and one or two playoff games.

The next quarterback, probably one drafted in April, takes over a program headed in the right direction.

Is it plausible? Absolutely.

Is it probable? Well, Newton had better throw the ball better than he did. And if he doesn't, 2021 Patriots will be where the 2020 Patriots were ... in trouble.

You can email Bill Burt at