The Patriots potentially have one of the greatest all-time bargains if Cam Newton leads the team to the playoffs.
The Patriots could have the best QB in the division, and a top-10 talent in the NFL, and are paying him $1.05 million in base salary, of which just $550,000 is guaranteed. His cap number of $1.137 million ranks behind such illustrious Patriots names as Jermaine Eluemunor, Justin Bethel, Terrence Brooks, Cody Davis, Shilique Calhoun, Brandon King and the team's last two second-round picks, who have accomplished nothing in their short careers: Joejuan Williams and Kyle Dugger.
It's also a little embarrassing now that the team has about $35 million in cap space after magically settling their grievances with Antonio Brown and the estate of Aaron Hernandez days after Newton signed his contract, and the Covid-19 opt-outs.
Yes, there are incentives in the deal that give Newton's contract a maximum value of $7.5 million. But, realistically, Newton will make $6 million if he's the starter, leads the team to the playoffs and is named to the Pro Bowl (only if there is one).
That's not a truly terrible deal, but it's a bit insulting when you consider that all of the first-round rookies this year average more per season, and Mitch Trubisky, Daniel Jones, Marus Mariota and Taysom Hill are among those that do as well.
That's not right.
Yes, the Patriots should drive a hard bargain because business is business, but everyone knows that without the hurdles associated with Covid-19, Newton would have been signed as a starter by another team. More importantly, other players know this. And the good thing is Bill Belichick knows that players know this. There is perhaps no GM in the game who is more in tune with the locker room dynamics when it comes to finances.
Last year, I said the same thing about Julian Edelman's contract ... and later on, Edelman did get a new deal. That laid the groundwork for the Patriots to add Antonio Brown and pay him that mind-boggling signing bonus. Without the Edelman extension, the Brown deal (or maybe another one that actually would have benefitted the team and kept the offense from having the potency of a Pop Warner double-wing offense) couldn't have happened.
Belichick knows this better than anyone. It's not rocket science when you're dealing with professional athletes who, believe it or not, are not always "just about winning" or "playing for the fans."
I would expect Belichick to tweak Newton's contract at some point, because Belichick knows that can benefit the team in many different ways: