2011’s first-round picks became eligible for contract extensions last offseason, and a handful have already signed new deals, including J.J. Watt, Tyron Smith, and Patrick Peterson. While No. 1 overall pick Cam Newton has yet to re-up with the Panthers, the team has made it clear it views Newton as its franchise quarterback, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com. And, as Rapoport tweets, Newton has informed the club that he’s not interested in a contract structured like Colin Kaepernick‘s extension.
Kaepernick’s contract appeared on the surface to be extremely lucrative, with a base value of $114MM and substantial guaranteed money. However, most of those guarantees turned out to be for injury only, leaving the Niners on the hook initially for only about $13MM in fully guaranteed money. That gives San Francisco the opportunity to get out from the pact within a year or two without taking on much dead money, if the team so chooses.
After Andy Dalton signed a similarly structured long-term deal with the Bengals, it became fair to wonder if the next wave of QB extensions would follow the Kaepernick model. However, in my view, those were unique cases, given Kaepernick’s relative lack of starting experience and Dalton’s lack of success in the postseason. Neither player was a first overall pick like Newton or Andrew Luck, and neither player had won a Super Bowl like Russell Wilson, so it stands to reason that those three young signal-callers shouldn’t have to settle for Kaepernick-esque extensions.
According to Rapoport, Matt Ryan‘s contract with the Falcons may serve as a point of comparison for the Panthers and Newton. Ryan’s deal has a smaller overall value than Kaepernick’s, but it’s for one fewer year, and features much more fully guaranteed money — the five-year pact is worth $20.75MM annually, with $42MM guaranteed.
For now, the Panthers have Newton under contract for the 2015 season for a salary and cap number of $14.666MM, after exercising his fifth-year option. The team would also have the opportunity to use its franchise tag on him in 2016, though I’d expect both sides will be interested in working out a more permanent arrangement sooner rather than later, so perhaps negotiations will intensify during the coming offseason.