When the Patriots unexpectedly signed quarterback Cam Newton in late June, he received a compensation package that maxed out at $7.5 million. If he’d reached that level, the Patriots would have won the Super Bowl.
The Patriots aren’t making the playoffs, and that has taken a major chunk out of Newton’s potential 2020 earnings.
Assuming he dresses for the next two games and keeps his total playing-time percentage north of 80 percent (both are likely to happen), Newton will finish the year with $3.706 million.
That amount reflects the sum of Newton’s $1.05 million base salary, a per-game roster bonus of $43,750 for 15 games (he missed one game while on COVID-19 reserve), and a $2 million playing-time incentive, based on landing between 80 and 90 percent of the team’s total offensive snaps.
He’s currently at 86.8 percent (778 of 896). With New England’s average offensive snaps at 64 per game this year, another 128 of 128 over the last two games won’t be enough to get Newton north of 90 percent, which would bump the incentive to $2.25 million. If Newton for some reason doesn’t play the final two games, he’d likely fall below 80 percent. That would drop the incentive to $1.75 million.
The real question becomes Newton’s compensation package for 2021. The one-year contract doesn’t prevent the Patriots from using the franchise tag on Newton, something that the Patriots surely won’t do. And so Newton will have a chance to hit the open market, and to see whether some other team will offer him more than whatever the Patriots may put on the table.
The Patriots know this drill; they went through it last year with Tom Brady. But Brady was ready to leave. Newton may want to stay. Whether the Patriots want Newton or someone else for 2021 will be determined over the next couple of months, culminating in the launch of 2021 free agency in the middle of March.