By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — Through the first two weeks of the season, it looked like Bill Belichick had bamboozled the entire NFL with his pickup of Cam Newton for short money. Since then, of course, things have cooled considerably.
Though Newton and the Patriots are coming off a Monday night win over the 0-9 Jets, the quarterback has still not thrown a touchdown in his last four games. His last touchdown pass came on Sept. 27, in Week 3 against the Raiders.
Though Newton has still been a highly effective runner, the 31-year-old’s free-agent stock for 2021 is dipping quite a bit, according to former player agent Joel Corry.
“Newton isn’t passing the test with flying colors of resurrecting his career after being plagued by foot and shoulder injuries over the last two seasons,” Corry wrote for CBSSports.com. “He got off to a hot start this season before testing positive for COVID-19. Newton performed so poorly initially upon returning to action from the coronavirus that he admitted he could be benched with continued subpar performances.”
Corry noted that if Newton is able to put forth an excellent second half of the season, he could make the Patriots want to apply the franchise tag on him for 2021. Doing so would give Newton a payday of roughly $25 million for next season.
At this point, though, that seems unlikely. And as for his 2020 salary, it’s worth taking a look at how Newton is doing in terms of earning the incentives in his contract for the 2020 season with the Patriots.
ESPN’s Field Yates reported the details of Newton’s incentives back in July:
A full breakdown of Cam Newton’s contract with the Patriots, which includes $3.75M in playing-time incentives and a maximum value of $7.5M if the team wins the Super Bowl. pic.twitter.com/TGSVEJ3P0Z
— Field Yates (@FieldYates) July 9, 2020
With regard to the active roster bonus, Newton only missed the Kansas City game, due to his positive test for COVID-19. Being active for seven games thus far has earned him $306,250 of a possible $350,000 thus far. Barring injury, Newton remains on track to earn the $350,000 remaining in that incentive, as he’s been the clear-cut No. 1 starter since training camp.
Missing the Kansas City game and getting benched in the loss to San Francisco has cut into Newton’s playing time. As a result, he’s taken 82.2 percent of the Patriots’ offense snaps this year. If he fails to get that number to 90%, then he’ll earn $2 million in playing time incentives. If he does get to 90 percent, that number will jump to $2.25 million.
All told there, Newton will most likely earn a shade under $3 million in playing time and active roster bonuses — again, assuming health. Add that to his $1.05 million base salary, and it’s looking to most likely be roughly a $4 million season for Newton.
There are, though, some less likely incentives that still technically could be earned.
The first would be making the playoffs. At 3-5, the Patriots would have to finish the year on a special sort of run– something like 7-1 or 6-2 — in order to reach the postseason. That’s possible, but certainly not likely. If the Patriots are to make the playoffs, then Newton would either make an additional $1 million (if he plays less than 90 percent of the team’s snaps) or an additional $1.5 million (if he plays more than 90 percent of the team’s snaps).
And if the Patriots do make the playoffs, Newton could earn an additional $250,000 for each postseason victory, provided he plays at least half of the offensive snaps.
The final unlikely sources for added income would come in earning either a Pro Bowl spot or placement on an All-Pro team. With his two touchdown passes and seven interceptions and his 77.9 passer rating, it would seemingly take the greatest second half of a season the NFL has ever seen for Newton to even enter those discussions. Thus the additional $1 million ($500,000 for Pro Bowl, $500,000 for All-Pro) is seemingly not going to happen for Newton.
When taken together, the postseason bonus (max value of $1.5 million), the playoff wins bonus (max value of $1 million), and the Pro Bowl/All-Pro honors (max value of $1 million) amount to $3.5 million that seemingly won’t be earned.
The bottom line: Newton has already earned $1.36 million. He’s on track to earn between $2.35 million and $2.6 million more, with an outside shot of earning between $1 million and $1.75 million more if the Patriots make the playoffs.
Newton has been open and honest about his efforts to revive his career, which not long ago had him earning MVP awards and leading near-perfect seasons for the Panthers. While his personal performance will be what determines what his next contract offer will look like, he’s recently said that his focus is just on winning football games each week.
“Listen, I just want to win. That’s it. Nothing else matters,” Newton said last week. “October wasn’t good for me. We have to make sure November doesn’t feel like October. So Monday night is good, but we have to win. I’ll put it like this. I don’t want to lose the focus on what’s the reality. We just have to make the proper adjustments, day by day, that’s going to put us in the best situation to win coming in.”
Newton will have another nationally televised opportunity to display his abilities on Sunday night, when the Patriots host Lamar Jackson and the Ravens.