On Friday morning, the New England Patriots brought back Cam Newton on a one-year deal worth close to $14 million, but it’s a heavily incentivized contract that has up to $6 million worth of incentives, per ESPN’s Mike Reiss.
As for flexibility ...
So much of the quarterback carousel has been out of the Patriots’ control this offseason, such as whether the San Francisco 49ers would trade Jimmy Garoppolo. Bringing back Newton, someone they know well who has become a champion of their program and wanted to return, was one of the few appealing options to the team while still retaining flexibility at the position.
Newton’s return doesn’t mean the Patriots are done at quarterback. They still have plenty of salary-cap space (they entered Friday with $56,316,719 according to Roster Management System) should an unexpected opportunity present itself in the future (e.g., Garoppolo), including in the 2021 NFL draft next month.
Evan Lazar covers the Patriots and said New England kicked the tires on Jimmy G before making a deal with Cam, but talks never advanced to anything serious as the 49ers said Garoppolo isn’t available right now:
According to a league source, New England called the 49ers recently about the availability of former Pats quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo but were told that Garoppolo wasn’t available right now.
Lazar said the Niners’ timeline didn’t line up with New England’s. That makes sense, as you’re not going to head into free agency without a quarterback if you’re San Francisco. Trading Garoppolo without an answer behind him would be a terrible move on many fronts.
You only move on from Jimmy if you have a concrete plan. Free agency hasn’t started, and the draft is over a month away. You’re not attracting any free agents if you don’t have a quarterback. I don’t care how enticing the defense is.
Speaking of trades, Peter King hasn’t stopped his Sam Darnold to the 49ers talk:
Peter King just said on PFT that a source close to the #49ers layed out a scenario where SF trades a 2nd to the #Jets for Sam Darnold to put pressure on Jimmy G. A Darnold trade wouldn’t mean the end of Jimmy.— Brian Peacock (@BDPeacock) March 12, 2021
I agree with the idea that competition makes every player better. The financials don’t make sense to keep both as you’d be paying two quarterbacks over $30M, and one of them, you just traded a second-round pick for a one-year rental.
If the 49ers' plan is to keep Garoppolo, dozens of options are better than trading a second-rounder for a backup QB. Keep that premium pick and use it on a player who can help your defense right away. If a quarterback is available in the first round that’s too good to pass on, then sure. In that situation, you have that rookie under contract for five years. That’s a big difference compared to Darnold’s situation.