If money really makes the man, Cam Newton is certainly set for life.
But as far as his chosen profession goes, championships make the quarterback so the Carolina Panthers’ now, nine-figure signal caller has a ways to go before he makes his bones in the NFL.
Newton signed a five-year contract extension with the Panthers on Tuesday with multiple reports tabbing the pact at $103.8 million total with $60 million of that guaranteed.
Newton is expected to earn $31 million in 2015 — a $22.5 million signing bonus, a $7.5 million roster bonus (due by Friday), along with an actual salary of a paltry $1 million. So, by the end of this week the Auburn product will have the ability to deposit $30 mil in his back account and if he actually sees the end of this deal, he will secure the GDP of a third-world country.
The deal is very similar to that of Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan, who inked a five-year, $103.75 million contract in 2013 and is the largest in Panthers history. surpassing a six-year, $76 million deal defensive end Charles Johnson signed back in ’11.
To most fans, all of those numbers can be mind-numbing and might as well be monopoly money, especially for a signal caller who is a game under .500 as an NFL starter.
But understand big money is about timing in sports and it was Newton’s time to cash in.
“I’ve said all along, Cam is our franchise quarterback and we are absolutely thrilled that we got the extension done,” Panthers GM Dave Gettleman said. “It allows us to do the long-term planning that we need to do to make sure that
he’s surrounded with players and that we can continue to build this team.”
Gettleman was especially impressed with Newton’s toughness last season when he played through a series of injuries and quickly returned from a scary car accident in December to lead Carolina to a second straight NFC South crown.
“If you think of all the things he went through, this team went through last year, it just cemented the way I felt,” Gettleman said. “He’s gifted. He’s a worker and it’s important to him. That’s why we did this deal. We’ll believe he’ll take us to the promised land.”
Newton’s “monster” deal is the largest payout over the first three years of any contract in NFL history but that record that will last only until Russell Wilson or Andrew Luck put pen to paper for their next contracts.
Deserved or not, this is the going rate for elite-level QBs and before you start comparing the former 2011 No. 1 overall pick to Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady or Peyton Manning, understand it’s difficult to find a top-tier player at the game’s most important position. Furthermore, if Newton ever made it to the open market, teams would be lining up for his services.
“This extension shows the commitment we wanted to make to Cam as our franchise quarterback,” Carolina head coach Ron Rivera said. “For me personally, he was the first draft pick we ever made and the first pick in 2011 so it continues to solidify that relationship we have with each other.”
Physically Newton is the dual-threat that is the prototype in a ’15 NFL offense, a player with significant arm talent who can extend plays and move the chains with his legs if need be. Meanwhile, at 6-foot-5 and nearly 250 pounds, Newton has linebacker size and can take punishment other QBs simply cannot.
In fact since entering the NFL Newton has been hit 578 times due to both a porous offensive line as well as his propensity for pulling the football down and taking off. And that’s a stunning 270 more hits than the next closest QB, according to ESPN STATS.
“Nothing about this contract changes my approach to the game,” Newton claimed. “It’s still going to be the person who’s willing to win at all costs, but I have to understand what I mean to this team. We always have talks about
playing smart and being smart when I’m on the field. And I feel like I’ve done a great job to this point and will be more mindful of the hits that I take when running, and make this process go smoothly.”
Rivera seconded that.
“He’s going to play the way he does, and that’s what you expect,” the coach stated. “In the back of your mind, it’s not about the money. Somebody asked me, ‘do you think the money will change him?’ I said ‘no, he already had money. He had the rookie contract and all the endorsements. It ain’t gonna change him.'”
The questions surrounding Newton, though, are never tied to his physical skills or even the punishment he takes. It’s always been about the intangibles, specifically his leadership abilities.
Too often when things have gone off the rails for Carolina, its leader has been filmed on the sidelines, sullen as can be with his trademarked Gatorade towel draped over his head.
And that “Debbie Downer” routine has to change if Newton’s production is ever going to match the contract he just signed.
“We expect him to continue to be that guy on the football field that guys rally behind,” Rivera said. “And I’m like Dave (Gettleman), I’m very confident in his ability and confident that he’s going to take us to the promised land.”