Cam Newton may end up being one of the most uniquely challenging players to defend in modern NFL history, and so it makes perfect sense that, upon his release from the Carolina Panthers back in March, 31 NFL teams sat on their hands while the New England Patriots drummed up their due diligence and signed him for peanuts to replace Tom Brady.
Sometimes we build up the mystique of the Bill Belichick dynasty into something that is beyond our comprehension, and, sure, there are some black ops elements to this team that will never see the light of day. But what the Patriots do better than anyone else is see and acquire value, regardless of what their plans are. They have always done this, to the point that when a talented but, for some reason, difficult to employ player emerges on the market, his move to New England seems like a formality.
The question this time, though, is how the hell the rest of the league let this happen. Newton is just 31 years old. He piloted offenses with mediocre talent to the height of the sport. He will instantly diversify a Patriots scheme that no one could stop for the better part of two decades whilst piloted by an immobile vitamin salesman.
Perhaps there is a comfort from other teams, especially in the AFC East, in being routinely flogged by the Patriots. Maybe they thought that defending Jarrett Stidham would be too easy. It’s the only way to explain this constant inability to escape their comfort zone or apply a little situational tradecraft to a given situation.
You’ll counter this point by saying that no one knew how healthy Newton was given that he underwent Lisfranc surgery at the end of 2019 and shoulder surgery the year before that. And to that, I’ll say it doesn’t matter. Nevermind the fact that Newton has been showcasing feats of superhuman ability on his Instagram account on a regular basis that should have, at the very least, elicited some curiosity from the quarterback-needy teams of the NFL. Even if it took Newton half of the 2020 season to recover—you know, the 2020 season that will probably not start on time to begin with—he would be an appreciating asset. Nursing him back to health before the trade deadline would be like buying in on Amazon while it was still being run from a garage.
People have solidified their own opinions on the Patriots through the years (and through countless NFL investigations). It is no surprise that the news of Newton’s signing was broken concurrent with the penalties the organization sustained for illegally filming the sideline of a Bengals game last year. These are not unintelligent people unfamiliar with the Way Things Work.
But having the common sense to sign Cam Newton isn’t cheating. It’s not nefarious. It doesn’t require the shadowy existence of a humorously named football deflator or Bostonian-accented cameraman who sounds like an extra from The Departed. This was common sense. This was so insanely obvious.
Every team that loses to Newton and the Patriots in 2020 deserves this. Every team that is bested by a draft pick that Belichick accrues from this signing deserves this. Every team that did not see this coming deserves this.
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