Cam Newton has a new NFL home, and that undoubtedly makes him a happy camper, but the deal itself has All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman shaking his head. In signing with the New England Patriots, the former league MVP replaces another in the departing Tom Brady — three months after having been released from the only organization he’s known in the Carolina Panthers. As a determined Newton readies to attempt to re-establish himself as one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL, and under the tutelage of legendary coach Bill Belichick, but he’ll do so on a one-year, prove-it deal.
Considering Newton’s resume, Sherman finds the deal disrespectful, to say the least.
“How many former league MVPs have had to sign for the [minimum]? Asking for a friend,” the San Francisco 49ers star defensive back posited on Twitter immediately following news of the signing. “Just ridiculous. A transcendent talent, and less talented QBs are getting [$15 million – $16 million] a year. Disgusting.”
And he’s not alone in this sentiment.
Newton’s deal with the Patriots is reportedly worth upwards of $7.5 million for 2020, which is in stark contrast to the two-year, fully guaranteed $50 million deal given to Brady by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Those two things don’t exactly make for an apples-to-apples comparison though, considering the latter has six Super Bowl rings in his trophy case and opted to walk away in free agency as opposed to being released in unexpected fashion. Plus, Sherman isn’t pointing at Brady’s contract with his comment, or at least not directly, but more so aiming at what he feels is a lesser tier of quarterback of whom Newton is better than but earning less than.
In many ways, Sherman has a point.
One example is Chase Daniel, a 33-year-old journeyman who signed a three-year, $13.05 million deal — including a $2.25 million signing bonus — this offseason with the Detroit Lions, the seventh team of his career as a backup with a 2-3 record when called upon to start. And then there’s Taysom Hill, the New Orleans Saints third-string quarterback who signed a two-year deal worth $16.3 million ($8.15 million average) this offseason to sit behind a newly-signed backup in Jameis Winston, or the fact the Las Vegas Raiders are paying Marcus Mariota an average of $8.8 million over the next two seasons to play second fiddle to Derek Carr.
So forth and so on.
Few comparisons will hit home like that of Teddy Bridgewater though, who replaces Newton as the Carolina Panthers franchise quarterback on a three-year deal that averages $21 million per season, despite Bridgewater having served as the Saints backup for the last two seasons.
For while Bridgewater has proven himself a capable starter when healthy, he doesn’t have the resume of Newton.
That said, there are also points that contradict Sherman’s train of thought, at least to some degree, as there are plenty of examples over the course of NFL history wherein big-name veterans took less money on the back end of their career to have a chance at redemption. And when that shot at redemption is also tied with what could be one final chance to win a Super Bowl, it stands to reason money would be less of an issue for a player like Newton — who has earned more than $121.39 million since being selected as the first-overall pick in 2011.
Newton is also coming off of an injury that cost him 14 games in 2019 and considering he’s battled a growing list of injuries in recent seasons, questions surrounding his durability undoubtedly entered contract talks with the Patriots, and any other club he had discussions with.
In the end, Sherman is neither completely on nor off-base, because while there are clear examples of Newton being paid less than those who he’s performed much better than en route to becoming one of the best players in Panthers history, he also carries his own set of risks that include a 6-10 combined record in this last two seasons. Still, the Patriots are paying him $6.45 million more than the league minimum for a player with his length of service, which feels like a good balance between respect for what he’s done and can still be when healthy, and some apprehension surrounding his performance and durability as of late (Newton having an understanding of this when he signed).
Did they underpay? You could argue that, or you could say other teams are overpaying their backups.