Such was the case late Sunday, when the Patriots signed former MVP quarterback Cam Newton to a one-year, incentive-laden deal with a base salary just more than $1 million. What did Belichick see differently from Bears general manager Ryan Pace and those other teams that sought a quarterback this offseason?
The Bears entered this offseason seeking a veteran competitor at quarterback for incumbent starter Mitchell Trubisky. With the possibility to seriously pursue and land Newton on the table, Chicago instead opted to trade a fourth-round pick to Jacksonville for Nick Foles -- then restructured his contract to include incentives and opt-out clauses over its remaining three years.
Newton and Foles are both 31 and coming off injury-plagued 2019 seasons that led their respective teams to move on. Newton had foot surgery in December, and his health issues have the potential to be lasting for the rest of his career. Team doctors were unable to properly evaluate Newton's health in March during the height of the coronavirus pandemic. It's part of why 31 franchises moved forward with their respective quarterback situations while the Patriots patiently waited.
After months of waiting it out, the Patriots added Newton with their focus not on his past performance but the belief that he can maximize what he has left.
The Bears chose Foles' fit in their system and his familiarity with their coaching staff over the bounce-back potential of Newton. Foles knows Bears coach Matt Nagy's offense well and has played under Nagy, offensive coordinator Bill Lazor and quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo at previous stops. Foles offers the Bears a proven competitor to push Trubisky in a 2020 season that's pivotal for Trubisky's future. For those reasons, there was a natural appeal for Foles to land in Chicago.
But the NFL's best coaches adapt their scheme to their players -- something Nagy has admitted he needs to do better -- and Belichick is one of the best at that. Though Newton's football durability is in question, the Patriots feel they can create an offense that best suits his strengths.
Newton will need to compete with 23-year-old Jared Stidham, Belichick's latest developmental quarterback prospect -- just as he would've been required to battle Trubisky for the Bears' starting job. If Newton is healthy, it would be hard to see him losing either competition.
Would Newton have considered an offer from the Bears, even if it meant potentially being the backup to Trubisky? That isn't clear, but the Bears certainly shouldn't have been concerned or shy about the potential addition of a once-elite quarterback in Newton not allowing Trubisky a fair chance in a competition. That would defeat the point of creating competition.
If the Bears are a playoff team in 2020 and either Trubisky or Foles elevates them at quarterback, it doesn't matter what Newton does for the Patriots. However, Pace's history of evaluating quarterbacks was already a big criticism after Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson emerged as two of the NFL's best players from the 2017 draft class while Trubisky has struggled. Then came this latest leap of faith on Foles.
Newton is five years removed from his MVP year in 2015 and two years removed from his last accomplished season. Since then, he underwent surgery to his right throwing shoulder and the procedure on his left foot. It's quite possible -- and perhaps most likely -- that he's just not the same quarterback anymore. Belichick was willing to take that chance.
But whenever the Patriots see potential in a player, teams like the Bears should pay attention. Belichick is usually right.