The Carolina Panthers’ franchise quarterback is locked up for at least two more seasons.
The Panthers exercised the fifth-year club option on Cam Newton on Friday, a move that comes a month after general manager Dave Gettleman said that was the team’s intention.
Newton will make $14.67 million in 2015, guaranteed only in the event of injury. Teams have until May 3 to exercise the fifth-year option.
Newton, the first No. 1 pick signed under the NFL’s new collective bargaining agreement in 2011, agreed to a four-year contract worth a guaranteed $22 million. The guaranteed money was less than half of the $50 million St. Louis quarterback Sam Bradford received as the No. 1 overall pick in 2010.
The new CBA allows teams to control the fifth year for first-round picks at a set price. For top 10-picks, the fifth-year salary is the average of the top 10 players at their position.
In addition to the option, the Panthers could use the franchise tag on Newton for the 2016 and ’17 seasons. But Gettleman has indicated Newton is the franchise quarterback and the two sides could agree on a long-term extension that likely would be more salary cap-friendly.
Newton declined to comment on his contract Friday at his School Pride Day at Memorial Stadium.
But earlier this week Newton said he would “absolutely” be OK if the Panthers exercised the option.
As many as seven of the top-10 picks from the 2011 draft class have either had their fifth-year option picked up or are expected to. The likely exceptions are San Francisco defensive end Aldon Smith, who’s had a history of off-the-field issues, Tennessee quarterback Jake Locker and 49ers quarterback Blaine Gabbert, who was traded from Jacksonville last month.
Newton, who turns 25 in May, earned his second Pro Bowl berth last season after passing for 3,379 yards and posting career highs in touchdown passes (24), completion percentage (61.7) and passer rating (88.8).
Newton directed four game-winning drives and led the Panthers to their first playoff berth since 2008.
He underwent surgery in March to tighten the ligaments in his left ankle and is expected to be sidelined until training camp in late July.
Newton hosted 600 eighth-graders from 40 CMS schools Friday at his second annual field day, encouraging them to get “turnt” as they made their way through 10 recreation and academic-themed stations.
The day marked the end of a busy week for Newton, who made multiple trips between Auburn and Charlotte (via his Atlanta hometown) while juggling the start of the Panthers’ offseason workouts and the end of Auburn’s spring semester.
“My week has been hectic from driving back and forth from Auburn to Atlanta, trying to get to the airport, getting back for the OTAs, trying to get treatment on my ankle,” Newton said. “To now having somewhat of a relief to say, ‘All right, I can put my head down and just relax and have fun and be around kids.’”
Newton said he took a sociology class this semester, as well as two online courses – statistics and world literature. He hopes to finish the six hours needed to complete his sociology degree next spring – after another playoff appearance.
After Friday’s School Pride event, Newton was headed to New York for the weekend.
“It’s hectic. But it’s worth it. This is what I signed up for, and I can’t expect it to be any other way,” Newton said. “I’m trying to get back on the field. I’m trying to give back to my community. I’m trying to be the best football player that I can possibly be, as well as graduate.”