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Smith: If Cam Newton soars, this will be most Patriots move ever

Classic Bill Belichick.

Typical New England Patriots.

If Cam Newton still has any Superman left in him between the lines? Tom Brady’s replacement could have the remade Pats back in the AFC Championship Game.

I love everything about this signing (on paper). Bold, aggressive, gutsy. Simple, straightforward and almost risk-free.

The NFL’s 2015 MVP and Offensive Player of the Year was being ignored by 97 percent of the NFL. Belichick’s post-Brady Pats waited and waited, then leapt in Sunday night and signed Newton to a one-year deal that could reportedly max out at $7.5 million.

The Texans are set to pay A.J. McCarron $4 million this season to hopefully never take the field, save for game-ending victory formations at the completion of blowouts.

Franchise quarterback Deshaun Watson could soon be making at least $40 million a season. If Watson makes that much, 2019 Super Bowl winner and MVP Patrick Mahomes will surely make more.

Newton making, at most, $7.5 million to guide New England back to the playoffs in 2020?

That’s an old-fashioned bargain — for both sides.

Sunday, Nov. 22 also now looks a little different inside NRG Stadium. Newton versus Watson for the W?

No offense to Brian Hoyer. Ex-Texan. Nice guy. Annually a good story.

No offense to Jarrett Stidham. Former fourth-rounder. Possibly Belichick’s long-term solution at QB in this new football decade.

But Hoyer’s an ex-Texan for a reason. Stidham has thrown only four pro passes and is still just 23. And the NFL’s greatest modern dynasty didn’t become the league’s greatest modern dynasty by tanking for Trevor Lawrence.

The moment Brady oddly became a Buccaneer, Newton made sense in New England.

If he were healthy. If he were open to competing for a starting job. If he bought into everything Belichick sells — do your job; team first; the best player plays on Sunday — and was willing to adapt to the Patriots’ system.

On March 19, I wrote a column titled “The NFL has already moved on from Cam Newton?” It ended with a question mark for a reason.

It also featured these lines: “Bill Belichick needs a new starting QB. Maybe the greatest NFL coach of all time can guide Newton to redemption.”

Little about Newton’s slow, ugly ending in Carolina made sense. Yes, the Panthers were in the middle of a full regime change. Yes, Carolina finished 5-11 last season, and a beat-up Newton completed just 56.2 percent of his passes in his only two starts, both early-season defeats.

But Super Cam was the best player in the NFL in 2015. His team almost went undefeated during that regular season, then entered Super Bowl 50 as the better team.

Four seasons later he wasn’t worth anything in pro football terms?

Only Johnny Manziel declines that fast that hard.

Carolina tried to trade Newton and found no takers despite letting the entire league know he was available.

There were too many hits, and there was too much change. But Newton also went 11-5 in 2017 and was the most important player in Panthers history.

“Stop with the word play. I never asked for it,” Newton posted on Instagram after the Panthers announced they were moving on from the nine-year veteran. “There is no dodging this one. I love the Panthers to death and will always love you guys. Please do not try and play me or manipulate the narrative and act like I wanted this. You forced me into this.”

Now, Matt Rhule is betting on reaching the Super Bowl with Teddy Bridgewater, whose career almost ended due to injury and who has bounced around from team to team. Belichick — who won six world championship rings with Brady and reached the NFL’s ultimate stage nine times — has a shot to rebuild Newton’s career at age 31.

The Patriots being the Patriots, they were also fined $1.1 million and lost a third-round pick in the 2021 draft because of another NFL investigation relating to improper sideline filming.

Super Bowl-winning QBs normally aren’t signed to one-year deals in late June. Maybe Newton will never be the same, Stidham collects the most starts in 2020, and the Pats keep rebuilding without the ball always in Brady’s hands.

But Newton working with and learning from Josh McDaniels and Belichick in New England?

That’s a “30 for 30” documentary in the making if the No. 1 overall pick of the 2011 draft can reclaim his career.

Lamar Jackson, Kyler Murray, Mahomes and Watson followed the path Newton helped blaze. The NFL doesn’t just accept dual-threat QBs now — it seeks them out.

During an extended offseason that has featured closed team facilities and video conferences instead of on-field workouts, we finally had something real to discuss Monday morning: Belichick might have discovered his replacement for Brady.

If Newton is soon winning games for New England in the playoffs, it will be the most Patriots move ever.

While the rest of the league watched and waited, Belichick’s team made another gutsy but old-fashioned move that became the talk of the league.

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