Cam Newton to Patriots, COVID causing cap issues and more


The New England Patriots signed Cam Newton on Sunday night, and the AFC East now looks far different.

Cam Newton to the New England Patriots. Finally.

A deal that seemed too logical to happen finally did on Sunday night. New England is giving Newton a one-year, $7.5 million — much of which is through incentives — to fight for a starting job.

Newton, 31, has to beat out Jarrett Stidham and Brian Hoyer. If his right shoulder and foot are healthy, he’s going to be under center Week 1.

The easy reaction is to say the Patriots are back as contenders. New England has been on said pedestal for 20 years thanks to Tom Brady and Bill Belichick. It’s almost impossible to imagine them as anything else.

However, we should consider the possibility.

New England is a contender in the AFC East because the division is awful. The Buffalo Bills have a substantially better overall roster, but Josh Allen is a gigantic question mark. The Miami Dolphins are improved but still rebuilding, while the New York Jets (more on them below) have been perpetually rebuilding for a decade.

Still, the Patriots aren’t on the level of either the Kansas City Chiefs or Baltimore Ravens. Even if the 2015 NFL MVP is healthy, he’s likely a downgrade from Brady despite the latter’s advanced age. New England still lacks weapons, with the starting “11” personnel being receivers N’Keal Harry, Mohamed Sanu and Jullian Edelman, tight end Matt LaCosse and running back James White or Sony Michel, depending on the down and distance.

Not exactly the Air Coryell group.

Newton also faces the uphill battle of not having had OTAs or minicamp with the Patriots. Hopefully he has a full training camp, but considering the pandemic, that’s far from a sure thing. Newton could be attempting to absorb offensive coordinator Josh McDaniel’s offense in warp speed without a single preseason game, again depending on COVID-19. Not an easy task, even for a wily veteran.

Make no mistake, this is a smart move for both sides.

Newton gets to start if he’s physically able, on a good team with arguably the greatest coach in league history. New England gets the upside of a huge upgrade on the quarterback depth chart without tying up money long term.

Again, it’s the right fit for each party. It’s also a move which will have no consequence on the 2020 standings if Newton isn’t fully recovered from a pair of serious shoulder surgeries.

If Newton is right, the Patriots have a strong argument as the third-best team in the weak AFC. They should win their division and handle most teams not named Kansas City or Baltimore. That’s a big step up from where New England was before the weekend.

Newton is signed. The Patriots are relevant again. Now both sides have to hope for health.

Power rankings

Most random quarterbacks to throw for 4,400+ yards (worst to best)

1. Blake Bortles, Jacksonville Jaguars (2015) – 4,428 yards
2. Steve Beuerlein, Carolina Panthers (1999) – 4,436 yards
3. Lynn Dickey, Green Bay Packers (1983) – 4,458 yards
4. Matt Schaub, Houston Texans (2009) – 4,770 yards
5. Neil Lomax, St. Louis Cardinals (1984) – 4,614 yards
6. Jameis Winston, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2019) – 5,109 yards
7. Daunte Culpepper, Minnesota Vikings (2004) – 4,717 yards
8. Jay Cutler, Denver Broncos (2008) – 4,526 yards
9. Trent Green, Kansas City Chiefs (2004) – 4,591 yards
10. Drew Bledsoe, New England Patriots (1994) – 4,555 yards


"“He came up with a terrible attitude, asking us did we have a problem. So, we’re all lost, trying to figure out what’s going on. He said that a White guy said we were verbally abusing him, talking trash to him. It was basically a lie. We basically got kicked out of Chipotle because of that. And they said they were going to call the police, or they wanted to call the police on us. That’s what being Black in America is right now.”"

– Indianapolis Colts linebacker Darius Leonard on an allegedly racially-motivated incident last week

At some point, Americans need to accept each other, regardless race, gender, sexuality, religion and creed. We’re better than we once were, but not nearly good enough. Good on Leonard for speaking out and bringing awareness to the plight of some many Black people in our country.


Random stat

Only three of the NFL’s top 25 all-time leading rushers played for one team their careers:

Barry Sanders (Detroit Lions), Walter Peyton (Chicago Bears) and Jim Brown (Cleveland Browns).

Info learned this week

1. COVID-19 is having impact on players looking for new, large deals

The NFL franchise tag deadline is less than three weeks away. Don’t expect a flurry of activity.

Talking to one general manager this weekend, there’s an expectation many long-term, lucrative deals will be tough considering the uncertainty of the 2021 salary cap. With coronavirus ravaging the United States, the cap number is likely to be far less than the initial projection.

In March, FanSided reported the cap could rise to $240 million. Now? That appears a pipe dream considering the potential lack of fans, along with other economic factors tamping down TV deals and the like.

This could spell trouble for teams like the Chiefs and Dallas Cowboys, who have a litany of large contracts on the books and yet would like to lock up Chris Jones and Dak Prescott, respectively. While deals could still happen, the unknown ahead will make it tougher, especially for Kansas City, which is also trying to lock up Patrick Mahomes for years to come.

Similarly, the Vikings and Pittsburgh Steelers are in a bind with safety Anthony Harris and edge rusher Bud Dupree. Both are stars worth paying major dollars to, but Pittsburgh and Minnesota are each projected to be in the bottom 10 of 2021 cap space.

On the other end, the Los Angeles Chargers should be able to pay tight end Hunter Henry if they’d like, having the most room of any team outside of Indianapolis next year. The Cincinnati Bengals (A.J. Green) and Washington Redskins (Brandon Scherff) are in similar positions as well.

Teams flush with cap space are less likely to be impacted for obvious reasons, but if your team has a player on the tag and not much wiggle room below the $200 million threshold, know your genera manager is in a very tight spot.

2. NFL cancels Hall of Fame Game, 2020 inductions

The first NFL preseason has been shelved. It won’t be the last.

On Thursday, the league announced its Hall of Fame Game between the Steelers and Cowboys has been taken off the schedule. Due to COVID-19, the inductions of 20 new members will now be moved to the 2021 slate.

The bigger story here? This is the first domino of what is likely many to fall in the coming weeks. The NFL has long been privately willing to move off four preseason games for a return favor from the NFLPA. This is the perfect time to test out a shorter exhibition season while seeing how the evaluation of rosters is impacted.

This is an opinion, but I’d be surprised if teams play more than one preseason game each this summer, if any at all.

3. Brady leading Bucs’ workouts is a dangerous game

The NFL and NFLPA are on record asking players not to partake in workouts with others. Brady doesn’t care.

Brady posted a quote from Franklin D. Roosevelt on his Instagram last week — “Only thing we have to fear, is fear itself” —  showing he and some of his Tampa Bay Buccaneers teammates are continuing to get together. Brady either doesn’t see the obvious danger with doing so, or simply doesn’t care. Regardless, it’s a precedent the league and the union can’t be thrilled about after they made clear their thoughts.

For Brady, perhaps he feels pressure to learn his new surroundings and create the bond he likely would have forged at OTAs and minicamps. It’s an understandable urge, especially considering he’s 42 years old come August and may only have one or two more seasons in his right arm.

Still, it’s an aggressive decision from one of there calculated players to step on the football field this century.

4. Eagles’ cap situation is getting dire with potential 2021 hit

Howie Roseman is likely sweating, and not because of the heat.

The Philadelphia Eagles general manager is looking at a cap sheet where his team is $51 million over a projected cap of $215 million in 2021. As aforementioned, the number was originally set as high as $240 million, per multiple league sources, but with the coronavirus impact, could potentially stay flat at $200 million.

For now, let’s say the cap is $215 million. That’s a far cry from where most team expected it to be. The Eagles are the most impacted considering how badly they need it to rise. Looking at the numbers, Roseman will certainly cut receiver Marquise Goodwin and edge rusher Derek Barnett, saving $17 million without any dead cap.

However, it gets tougher from there. Philadelphia can save another $8 million by moving on from receiver Alshon Jeffery, but incur a $10 million cap charge. DeSean Jackson can also be released for a $5.1 million savings, but the dead cap is $5.8 million.

Even with those four moves, the Eagles would be approximately $20 million over the cap. Expect restructures and extensions to spread out some money and do the rest of the work.

We could certainly see a few this summer, at a time when most teams aren’t sprinting to tie up future funds.

5. Joe Bugel dies at 80 years old

If you love football history, you know the greatest of The Hogs.

Arguably the most dominant offensive line in history, the Redskins enjoyed a fantastic front for a decade, winning three Super Bowls and reaching four in the process. The man behind the wall, Joe Bugel, passed away on Sunday at 80 years old.

Bugel was Washington’s offensive line coach from 1981-89 and won a pair of rings (the third coming in ’91). He became one of the great position coaches in league history, helping guard/center Russ Grimm to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. If there’s any justice, tackle Joe Jacoby will soon follow.

As a head coach, Bugel flamed out with the Cardinals and Oakland Raiders, posting a combined 24-56 record. However, it was his acumen teaching in the trenches which will live on for legions of football fans.

History lesson

Y.A. Tittle is likely the greatest quarterback you’ve never heard of.

Tittle played from 1948-64 with the Baltimore Colts of the AAFC (’48-’50), San Francisco 49ers (’51-’60) and New York Giants (’61-’64). He threw for 33,070 yards and 242 touchdowns, the most in both categories by wide margins upon his retirement.

A Hall of Famer, seven-time Pro Bowler and three-time All-Pro, Tittle had his best years late with the Giants. In 1963, Tittle had one of the finest campaigns of all time when adjusted for era.

The New York star threw for 36 touchdowns, while completing 60.2 percent of his throws on 8.6 yards per attempt. All were league-bests, and earned Tittle the MVP award en route to a NFL Championship Game appearance, losing to the Chicago Bears at Wrigley Field.

Parting shot

The Jets are adamant about keeping Jamal Adams. Now they need to prove it, and prove something.

I wrote extensively about their situation with Adams last week, and it appears New York feels similarly. Trading him would be telling the fans, and the players, to punt on another season. It can’t happen, especially this year.

What makes this year so special? For the first time in 20 years, the AFC East is realistically winnable.

Which brings us to the Bills and Dolphins, alongside the Jets. New England is better now with Newton as written about above, but the issues remain. The Patriots are vulnerable even if Newton plays. Without him, they are hoping Jarrett Stidham guides them to a division title.

There’s no excuses for the other three teams in the East, which have long gotten the hall pass of having to deal with the greatest head coach-quarterback combination of all time. With Brady and Belichick broken up, the scrutiny from local media and the respective fanbases for the other three teams will ratchet up, and rightfully so.