10:31am: Newton’s deal won’t be structured like Dalton’s or Kaepernick’s, according to Tom Pelissero of USA Today, who says (via Twitter) to expect significant guaranteed money.
9:31am: According to Rapoport (Twitter link), the five new years on Newton’s deal are expected to be worth more than $100MM.
8:53am: The Panthers and Cam Newton are closing in a long-term extension that would keep the quarterback locked up through the 2020 season, league sources tell Joseph Person of the Charlotte Observer (Twitter link). ESPN 730 in Charlotte was the first to tweet that the two sides are nearing an agreement, with both reports suggesting that a deal could be finalized as soon as today.
The Panthers and Newton had been expected to make every effort to work out a long-term arrangement at some point this offseason, but as of last week, negotiations had “barely gotten off the ground,” tweets Ian Rapoport of NFL.com. Rapoport and Person (Twitter link) both indicate that things happened quickly over the last few days, with talks between the team and agents Bus Cook and Tony Paige intensifying over the weekend.
While Russell Wilson‘s contract talks have dominated the rumor mill in recent weeks, Newton is the other notable young quarterback who would be eligible for unrestricted free agency following the 2015 season without a new contract. The former No. 1 overall pick was drafted a year earlier than Wilson – in 2011 rather than 2012 – but the Panthers were able to secure him for an extra season beyond his rookie deal by exercising his fifth-year option for ’15. Newton had been on track to earn a salary of $14.666MM for the coming season.
Newton, 26, has earned a pair of Pro Bowl berths during his first four seasons with the Panthers and is coming off a 2014 campaign in which he threw for 3,127 yards, 18 touchdowns, and 12 interceptions in 14 regular season contests. Despite finishing the season with a 7-8-1 record, Carolina won the NFC South and defeated the Cardinals on Wild Card weekend, the first postseason victory of Newton’s career.
Although Newton’s career passing numbers are somewhat modest, he has provided plenty of value with his legs as well, rushing for 2,571 yards and 33 touchdowns in his four seasons. Additionally, his passing totals were likely stunted somewhat last year due to his mediocre receiving corps — Greg Olsen stepped up and had a career year at tight end, but the wideouts were headed by rookie Kelvin Benjamin and journeyman Jerricho Cotchery. With Benjamin expected to take a step forward in his second year and 2015 second-rounder Devin Funchess added to the mix, Newton should have a little more help going forward.
It’s not clear yet what the numbers on Newton’s new contract will look like. I’d expect his deal to be more player-friendly extensions signed by Andy Dalton, Colin Kaepernick, and Ryan Tannehill, but not as lucrative as contracts like Jay Cutler‘s and Joe Flacco‘s. As Joel Corry of CBSSports.com tweets, Newton’s pact should feature much more guaranteed money than Tannehill got last month ($21.5MM fully guaranteed, $45MM in overall guarantees). An annual average salary in the neighborhood of $20MM also seems likely.
Outside of Newton and Wilson, other big-name quarterbacks whose contracts are set to expire after the 2015 season include Eli Manning, Philip Rivers, and Nick Foles. Of that group, Manning and Rivers are coming off veteran deals, so their negotiations will look a little different than Newton’s or Wilson’s. As for Foles, he’s finishing up his rookie contract, but his next deal will hinge significantly on how he adjusts with his new team in 2015.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.