You gotta hand it to Bill Belichick and the Patriots. Even with Tom Brady no longer in the fold, New England continues to shock, surprise and dominate NFL headlines.
Late Sunday evening, ESPN's Adam Schefter and Chris Mortensen reported that the Patriots signed the biggest remaining fish on the free agent market: former Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton. It's an incentive-laden, 1-year deal for the bare minimum. If Newton reaches all of his incentives, the contract will be worth $7.5 million.
Newton, 31, has a star-studded resume. He won the Heisman Trophy in 2010 at Auburn, was drafted first overall by the Panthers in 2011, went to three Pro Bowls and won the MVP award in 2015 when he led Carolina to a 15-1 record and Super Bowl appearance. In his career, Newton has thrown for 29,041 yards, 182 passing touchdowns (plus 58 rushing touchdowns) for a quarterback rating of 86.1.
However, Newton was limited to just two games this past season due to a foot injury. He was released by Carolina in late March. Newton has since passed a physical and is now healthy. In recent weeks he has posted impressive workout videos and conducted throwing sessions with Odell Beckham Jr.
In many ways, the signing of Newton is a classic low-risk, high-reward Belichick move. Instead of spending big money on a free agent to replace Brady, Belichick waited out the market and bought low on a depreciated asset for pennies on the dollar. Newton falls in the category of a highly talented reclamation project with something to prove and a massive chip on his shoulder, similar to Randy Moss or Corey Dillon in years past.
A source told Schefter that Newton is "hungrier than ever and eager for the next opportunity." Newton posted on Instagram "I'm excited as I don't know what right now" with the hashtag "Let's go Pats."
Newton will now compete with 2nd-year pro Jarrett Stidham and 11-year veteran Brian Hoyer for the starting job. However, it looks like Newton has the inside track. A week ago, Stidham was a -330 favorite to start for the Pats Week 1 at DraftKings, with Hoyer + 300 and Newton + 850. But now Newton is a -400 favorite with Stidham + 300 and Hoyer + 2500.
With Newton taking his talents to Foxboro, sportsbooks quickly adjusted Patriots futures in a positive fashion.
Prior to signing Newton, the Pats and Bills were co-favorites to win the AFC East at + 120 at FanDuel. New England is now the sole favorite at + 105, with Buffalo dipping to + 160. Both teams were + 2300 to win the Super Bowl. But now the Pats are + 1700 and the Bills have fallen to + 3200.
At William Hill, the Patriots moved from + 2500 to + 1800 to win the Super Bowl and + 1000 to + 750 to win the AFC.
BetMGM updated a plethora of Patriots betting specials after the signing, including exact season wins. The Pats are + 3500 to win 0 to 4 games, + 130 to win 5 to 8 games, -150 to win 9 to 12 games and + 1800 to win 13-16 games. In other words, New England going 9-7, 10-6, 11-5 or 12-4 is the favorite.
Before adding Newton, the Patriots 2020 win total was either 8.5 or 9 depending on the sportsbook. With Newton now in the mix, BetMGM immediately increased the win total to 9.5 (over + 105, under -125). The Pats are now -223 favorites to make the playoffs (+ 180 to miss the postseason).
New England is now + 2000 to lead the NFL in regular season wins at BetMGM, trailing only the Chiefs (+ 400), Ravens (+ 400), 49ers (+ 700), Saints (+ 800), Cowboys (+ 1100), Bucs (+ 1100) and Eagles (+ 1300).
Newton also finds himself near the top of the list for Comeback Player of the Year. He is now + 450 to win the award at BetMGM, trailing only Ben Roethlisberger (+ 350). Rob Gronkowski has been the runner-up since joining the Bucs but has since slipped to + 650.
While some may be shocked by the signing, Newton was actually favored to land with the Pats for much of the offseason, most recently at roughly + 400 odds. Someone must have known something because, in late April, Newton randomly jumped from + 400 to -190 to sign with New England before settling back in the + 400 range.
After joining New England, Newton's MVP odds moved from + 6500 to + 3500.
If Newton resurrects his career and leaves New England after just one season, the Patriots could recoup a compensatory draft pick in return. That pick could come in handy after the NFL handed down the Patriots their long awaited punishment for illegally videotaping a Bengals-Browns game in December 2019.
Less than 30 minutes after signing Newton, the NFL announced that the Patriots would be docked a third-round pick for taping the Bengals' sideline, along with a $1.1 million fine. The Pats' television crews are also barred from filming games in 2020.
Belichick is the favorite to win Coach of the Year at + 1000.