Athletes by Alessandro Malave July 1, 2020
Former league MVP Cam Newton just signed a minimum wage contract.
News broke Sunday evening that the New England Patriots signed the quarterback to a one-year $1.05 million contract. Newton will reportedly be able to make up to $7 million in incentives.
Cam Newton … QB for the New England Patriots 👀 pic.twitter.com/5YvLYZcYR9
— ESPN (@espn) June 29, 2020
This is a step back for the dual-threat quarterback, who was drafted by the Panthers first overall out of Auburn in 2011.
Although he has struggled greatly with injuries the past three seasons, it is still shocking to see a former MVP signing a minimum-wage deal. Cam Newton’s contract is a prime example of the necessity of consistency in the NFL, as well as the struggles that many African-American players face.
Newton was a force to be reckoned with as a rookie, passing for 4,051 yards and 21 touchdowns. He started all 16 games and won the AP Offensive Rookie of the Year award.
His success continued through 2015, when he led the Panthers to a Super Bowl appearance with a 15-1 record, 35 passing touchdowns, and a 99.4 passer rating. His league MVP that season was a surprise to nobody.
Trouble ensued in 2016. During the season opener rematch against the Denver Broncos, Newton sustained a head injury and left the game. Three weeks later, he sustained a concussion against the Atlanta Falcons on a failed 2-point attempt. He finished the season with a career-low 52.9% completion rate, 14 interceptions, and a 6-10 overall record.
On March 30, 2017, Newton underwent surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff on his throwing shoulder. His attitude during the season raised eyebrows, including a sexist comment made towards a female reporter on October 4. He finished the season with 3,302 passing yards and 22 touchdowns.
Towards the end of the 2018 season, Newton was deactivated by the Panthers in order to undergo season-ending right shoulder surgery. He played only two games during the 2019 season, battling both shoulder and foot injuries.
As quickly as it had begun, it ended. After failing to find a suitable trade partner, the Panthers released Newton on March 24, 2020.
#Panthers have released QB Cam Newton https://t.co/rmOOppyGmG
— Carolina Panthers (@Panthers) March 24, 2020
“Right now I’m angry, I feel let down,” Newton said in March. “But I’m not bitter. I knew the first day that I came into this league this day would come.”
Newton officially agreed to a one-year deal with New England Monday morning, and the rest is history.
While there is cause to celebrate the move, Newton’s minimum-wage contract and the fact that he remained unemployed for three months shows the value of consistency. The NFL is a rough, gritty league constantly putting players in injury’s way. The value of the quarterback has never been as high as it is now, with a total of 56 quarterbacks selected in the first round since 2000.
Organizations value quality quarterbacks that will be able to consistently start games throughout multiple seasons. Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa was lucky to have been picked 5th overall, as he endured an injury-filled collegiate career.
Similar to Newton, his physical talents are off the charts. Tagovailoa threw a school-record 87 touchdown passes to only 11 interceptions in just three years. Newton similarly has had impressive professional numbers, holding the records for most rushing touchdowns for a QB in NFL history, and being the only player in league history to have thrown at least 30 touchdowns and rushed for 10 in a single season.
The point is that Newton is undeniably talented. Even now, he is one of the most dynamic athletes in the league, behind only a handful of names. The problem is his lack of consistency. His lack of ability to stay on the field in consecutive seasons painted him as a washed-out QB in the eyes of ball clubs.
This is an unfortunate situation for Newton, who will now be playing for just over $1 million for the season. It is even more insulting given that Newton joins a QB room in New England consisting of Jarrett Stidham and Brian Hoyer. The former has four career pass attempts to his name, and the latter has played for eight teams in 11 years.
San Francisco 49ers cornerback Richard Sherman shared his take on Newton’s contract, noting the minimum-wage deal that was offered.
How many former League MVPs have had to sign for the min? (Asking for a friend.) just ridiculous. A transcendent talent and less talented QBs are getting 15/16m a year. Disgusting https://t.co/eZycGL8qkZ
— Richard Sherman (@RSherman_25) June 29, 2020
Given the current tensions in our country, we must address the racial side of this as well. African-American quarterbacks have notoriously been stereotyped as inferior throwers who use their athleticism for success. Newton already has proved this wrong simply by the statistics of his throwing game.
Thankfully, Patrick Mahomes and Lamar Jackson have been two African American quarterbacks to win the league MVP in the past two years.
However, this has the danger to set a “bar” for those who believe that race is an evaluating factor in QB play. “A quarterback of color is only successful if they win the MVP” is something that prejudiced NFL viewers could come down to. Clearly, this is not the case, and the award should be a cause for celebration instead of divide.
A lot of progress has been made regarding this in the past few years, but there is still improvement to be made.
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Cam Newton has the unique opportunity to win the New England Patriots’ starting quarterback position following the departure of hometown legend Tom Brady.
His bare-bones dollar amount is unfortunate given his talent, but it shows the desire for consistency around the league. Cam can continue to prove his doubters wrong by leading the Patriots to another playoff berth in 2020.