After spending nine seasons with the Carolina Panthers (the only team he's played for since they took him first overall in 2011), Newton was released on March 24. He will now head about 800 miles northeast to compete for a position left vacant when Tom Brady signed with Tampa Bay a few months ago.
At the moment, the competition for that vacancy is made up of Newton, journeyman Brian Hoyer, and second-year QB Jarrett Stidham (who threw four passes this past season after being taken in the 4th round in 2019). Though the 21st-century sports fan may, at times, prefer to tank, on the line for the Pats is an 11-year streak of AFC East division championships:
You're certainly free to speculate on the motivations of both Newton and the team in regards to this transaction, but it seems at least somewhat notable that the timing lines up with the Patriots being hit with a seven-figure penalty (and also the loss of a third-round pick in 2021) for filming the Bengals' sideline during a December 2019 game between Cleveland and Cincinnati:
Though Newton has made three Pro Bowls in his career (in 2011, 2013, and 2015, respectively) his past two seasons have been shortened by injuries. In 2018, he missed the final two games of the year due to a nagging throwing shoulder that he eventually got surgery on. In 2019, he suffered a Lisfranc fracture that healed slower than expected. He ended up playing just two games.
According to ESPN Newton continues to rehab his foot. He also passed a physical administered on March 23. A source reportedly told Adam Schefter that both his shoulder and foot were "checking out well." That same source added that Newton "is hungrier than ever and eager for the next opportunity."
Most notably, in 2015, he won the MVP in a landslide by snagging 48 of 50 possible votes from The Associated Press. He was responsible for 45 total touchdowns in the regular season that year, and the Panthers made it all the way to the Super Bowl, though they came up short against a peaking Broncos defense that shut them down to win 24-10.
In his nine seasons in Carolina, Newton established a new standard for pretty much every major passing record. For his career, he's thrown for 29,041 yards, 182 touchdowns, and 108 interceptions. Though his best rushing days are almost certainly behind him (we should mention he turned 31 last month) he's also compiled over 4,800 yards and 58 touchdowns on the ground.
As he is certainly a big name, especially amongst free agents (there's only seven active MVPs), news of the signing drew reactions on Twitter. Here's what some notable figures in the NFL world and beyond had to say: