As the venerable joke goes, every day, Twitter has a main character. Your only goal is to never be it.
The same applies for the galaxy that many of us inhabit known as Patriots Twitter. And while *most* of us were in an unusually good mood on a Monday morning after a game that results in our own Alec Shane having to write his first “Coping With Loss” column of the year, one theme seemed to be all over the place in NFL talk circles, taking one of the two following forms:
Continuing questions about Cam Newton: why was he unsigned and unwanted for four months after released from Carolina before NE signed him (to a $1M contract)?— Andrew Brandt (@AndrewBrandt) September 21, 2020
(Brandt, who is normally a pretty reasonable guy, also had a more controversial tweet he later deleted that seemed to ask why the Patriots took so long to make the call.)
Or, as they put it on The Ringer NFL Show that dropped Monday morning....
Kevin: “All right. I want to get angry for a second. If you’re an owner, and you’ve got a quarterback that’s anything less than great, let’s say? Great? So, you know, maybe 14th or below in the NFL, first thing I’m doing tomorrow: sending an email, maybe a passive-aggressive text message, depending on how comfortable I am with the coach and the GM. CC both of them and just say ‘Why didn’t we extend a contract offer to Cam Newton?’ Because as we all know, only one team offered a contract to the now-New-England-Patriots star, and it was the New England Patriots. So what I want to know is, what was the thought process behind not even calling, and saying ‘hey, we’d love to give you backup money’ for instance, cause no team did that. And if you’re the Chicago Bears, if you’re the, right now, the Denver Broncos, for instance, we’ll get to the injuries in a second here. Even if you think Drew Lock is the future, he’s not playing right now. Every team should’ve at least called about Cam Newton. Every team should have at least offered him a backup role.”
And they weren’t alone. If you were reading the takes at all on Monday morning (or, god forbid, watching ESPN), you saw them everywhere.
It’s roughly equivalent to the logic of the whole “31 other teams passed on Lamar Jackson! Every team passed on Tom Brady five times!” argument, and while even most Steelers fans would probably reluctantly admit that passing on Lamar stings, the “Why didn’t anyone else sign Cam! and also why didn’t the Patriots sign him the second Brady posted on IG that he was out?” is ignoring a couple #scoops from over the summer that, if you extrapolate them to their logical extent, explain pretty much exactly how this came to pass. From a Patriots perspective, anyway.
(We’re not gonna attempt to explain why teams like Da Bearssssss and the Broncos and the Jaguars and the Chargers didn’t bother calling Cam because A) we’re Patriots fans, we hate everyone, and B) as always, yes, it IS all about us.)
Let’s use the Bill & Ted phonebooth (if anyone’s seen the sequel and thinks it’s good, LMK!) and travel way back in time to when the bombshell news of Cam signing with the Patriots broke:
Source: The #Patriots are signing Cam Newton to a 1-year deal. A chance to compete. This has been in the works. A bare minimum deal.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) June 28, 2020
That’s twice that Rap says that the Cam signing wasn’t the equivalent of my dad driving by a yard sale and snagging something like “eh, if it’s a good deal, I’ll grab it now and figure out what to do with it later”. Instead, without getting too much into specific timeframes, Rapsheet emphasizes twice in the same night/scoop cycle that this had been cooking for a while; it’s just that both parties finally crossed the T’s and dotted the lowercase j’s right before we all (hopefully) got some R&R time for the 4th of July.
Now let’s make an Irish Carbomb with that and one thing we know — not think, know — about how Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots do business.
Bill calls about E-VE-RY-ONE. This is not an opinion, this is fact, unless you believe that Bill is a slightly less ostentatious Danny Ainge and just leaks that he asks about trading for everyone to mess with people.
I mean, for our “What If?” week this year, I covered Bill calling a former protege of his — who of ALL people should know that if you trade with Bill, you need to check your wrist after he shakes your hand to make sure your watch is still there — and asked if Bill O’Brien would be down to swap DeAndre Hopkins for Jamie Collins, straight up. And traded Drew Bledsoe for a first-round pick — to a division rival, at that. And lurved Brandin Cooks enough to almost trade Malcolm Butler to the Saints and eventually end up giving New Orleans a first-rounder in the same draft that famously featured Patrick Mahomes, Deshaun Watson, T.J. Watt, and Ryan Ramczyk, among other pretty objectively rad players. You get the idea.
So to drop the Bailey’s/Jameson shot in our carbomb, let’s put those two together; the Patriots-Cam contract had been in the works “recently”, as of the end of June, and based on what we know about Bill, he almost definitely called Cam’s agent pretty shortly after Brady left to see what it would take to get Cam in red, white, and blue. And, again, knowing Belichick, he almost certainly had an extremely specific dollar amount in mind, given that the Patriots were *ahem* a bit cap-strapped for most of the offseason, all the way up to signing Cam, and, well, that’s kind of how Bill rolls with everyone. This is how much I’ll pay you. Take it, and have a better shot than most free agents at a Super Bowl ring, or leave it and GTFO.
And then, to break out the Jump To Conclusions Mat, that would mean that the Patriots almost certainly did two things:
- Kicked the tires, as they say, on Cam Newton extremely shortly after they figured out that a Brady extension wasn’t going to happen, and
- Started negotiating with Cam well before the June 28th date that the signing announcement came in on. How far before that? That’s anyone’s guess, but even if you use previous Patriots holdouts (a la Logan Mankins or Vince Wilfork) as a benchmark, these things can often take months, even for a player everyone knows can still ball and just wants to be paid accordingly. Now throw in the wild-card of the Patriots wanting to sign an MVP and first overall pick for, as the parlance goes, a prove-it deal. Those have to be difficult, contentious, possibly even Pantera-hostile negotiations, right? Even if there’s no other offers on the table?
It just seems preposterous to suggest that the Patriots finally taking a flier on Cam was a Bob Ross happy accident, as opposed to, you know, something that the objectively most successful GM in football this millennium was almost certainly working on behind the scenes for more or less the whole offseason, and it finally came together right before our 4th of July long weekend.
And now in hindsight, like so, so many moves Bill makes, signing Cam Newton seems like one of those, “well OBVIOUSLY Belichick did that. Why wouldn’t he?”