This time, the visit to free agency is over before it could begin for Cam Newton.
The veteran quarterback agreed Friday to re-sign with the New England Patriots on a one-year contract, as first reported by Jim McBride of the Boston Globe.
Newton was scheduled to become unrestricted on March 17 at 4 p.m. ET. He instead provides New England with a direction under center ahead of the new league year, but doesn’t preclude the organization from going further with the No. 15 overall pick in the 2021 NFL draft and close to $60 million in cap room ahead.
Flexibility remains there and elsewhere.
Sources told NFL Media’s Mike Garafolo that Newton’s deal carries a $5 million base value with up to $9 million in incentives tied to honors and playoff advancement. His previous deal fit a similar description when it became official three weeks before the start of training camp last July.
Newton’s release from the Carolina Panthers came after campaigns cut short by shoulder and foot injuries that required surgery. It had been met by months of waiting and a pact that included $1.05 million in base salary, $550,000 in guarantees, $700,000 in per-game roster bonuses and a maximum value of $7.5 million when accounting for incentives.
The former BCS national champion, Heisman Trophy winner, No. 1 overall pick and league MVP would end up earning under $4 million in 2020.
MORE FOR YOU
Newton landed in Foxborough after the virtual offseason program had concluded and amid a summer with no preseason games. He missed one game from there while on the Covid-19 list, and finished the regular season having posted a 7-8 record as the starter for a roster thinned by opt-outs and bordering on $30 million in dead cap.
“He listens to coaching very well,” Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels told reporters during a December conference call. “He takes great notes. He tries to work on the areas of the game that we’ve addressed and tries to point out what we can make progress and improve on. And he’s pretty consistent as a human being. Again, I think that’s part of what makes him a good leader. He comes into the building every day. He’s got a positive outlook and a positive frame of mind. He’s got good energy. He’s been through these before.”
Newton handled 876 of New England’s offensive snaps. Those snaps brought 2,657 yards to go with eight touchdowns and ten interceptions through the air, where he completed 65.8% of his throws yet for a quarterback rating of 82.9 that ranked among the league’s lowest qualifiers.
A blend of issues between mechanics, scheme and skill personnel saw his passing performances range from 397 yards against the Seattle Seahawks to 34 yards against the Buffalo Bills. The latter loss featured Newton’s third and final benching of the season.
But an additional 592 yards and a dozen touchdowns had been tallied on the ground by Newton. Those rushing marks set and tied franchise records at the position, respectively. And by the finale versus the New York Jets, the team captain had caught a touchdown pass from his go-to target in an underpowered receiving corps, undrafted arrival Jakobi Meyers.
“I look at it like this: I know out of 32 guys, I’m not the 32 position rank in that position,” Newton said on WEEI as the calendar turned to January. “So, you have to also understand I’m a competitor first. I think the highest of myself first, as any person would and should. I know what my skillset is. I know what my talent is. I understand that if given the opportunity, there is nobody better than me. That’s how I will always feel. I have to also feel realistic about the opportunity that is presented, as well.”
The opportunity presented will give Newton a second year of familiarity. And as he vies to retain his position among the league’s 32, the Patriots are in position to play the long game as well as the short.
Under center, that game began in-house before free agency and the draft.
New England’s depth chart stood with 2019 fourth-round pick Jarrett Stidham and futures signing Jake Dolegala under contract for next season. Newton, who will turn 32 in May, now stands alongside them.
It is one step for the Patriots. It will allow for more not only at the quarterback spot, but what surrounds it.