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Patriots lose under $5 million in salary cap space by re-signing quarterback Cam Newton

Related: Patriots re-sign Cam Newton to an incentive-laden one-year contract

Arizona Cardinals v New England Patriots Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images

Shortly after news broke that the New England Patriots have re-signed starting quarterback Cam Newton to a one-year contract, initial details of the deal started to swirl around. The first such report had the pact at a value of “close to $14 million” but was lacking additional information to determine its salary cap hit, guarantees and other important details.

Looking at those as reported by NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo, it becomes clear that the $14 million is far from the actual cap impact of Newton’s deal. In fact, his contract will hit the Patriots’ books with just $4.91 million — the 31st highest cap hit in the league among quarterbacks.

Newton’s deal has a base value of $5 million and can be broken down as follows:

  • $2 million signing bonus
  • $1.5 million base salary
  • $1.5 million per-game roster bonuses
  • $9 million incentives

While Newton’s signing bonus and base salary are fully guaranteed and therefore counting against the Patriots’ salary cap, his per-game bonuses are not entirely on the team’s books just yet: Newton missed one contest in 2020 after testing positive for the Coronavirus, meaning that just $1.41 million of the $1.5 million bonus — the value of 15 games — are considered as likely to be earned this season.

That 16th game, meanwhile, falls into the “not likely to be earned” category: the $93,750 it is worth will only count against the Patriots’ books if Newton hits the necessary parameter. This means that only if he is active for 16 games during the 2020 regular season, New England’s salary cap will have to absorb the $93,750 bonus.

His $9 million worth of additional incentives, meanwhile, cannot impact the Patriots’ 2021 cap — they only become relevant for 2022 if hit.

How do those incentives look like? While no full details are available, they are likely tied to individual honors such as Pro Bowl, All-Pro or MVP selections, and playoff success. Newton achieved neither of those in 2020, meaning that those bonuses are also not likely to be earned.

For Newton to reach the full value of his contract, he would therefore have to play at an MVP level while leading the Patriots to a Super Bowl win. At the bare minimum, his deal still gives New England some solid value for a well-respected veteran with considerable starting experience.

Adding Newton’s contract to the equation (but not those of Trent Brown or Justin Bethel) gives the Patriots a salary cap number of $60.37 million, according to Miguel Benzan.


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