Carolina Panthers general manager Dave Gettleman has exhausted every way he knows how to say Cam Newton is the team’s franchise quarterback.
The third-year GM won’t get into contract specifics, but Wednesday he told the Observer he believes Newton’s long-term future will be in Charlotte.
“We want him here. I want him here,” Gettleman said from a hotel lobby during the week of the Senior Bowl. “The contract, in its time, will take place. I’m not going to get into the when, where, why and how of the contract. But we believe in Cam. He’s our franchise quarterback.
“What I feel confident of is, in time, something will happen. He’s our franchise quarterback. I want him here.”
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Gettleman’s directness in describing Newton as the team’s franchise quarterback contrasts with his statements at training camp before the 2013 season. In his first year as the team’s general manager, Gettleman said Newton was the quarterback to build around after a 7-second pause, and then added, “now it’s time to win.”
Gettleman laughed off the pause in an interview Wednesday, and he also dispelled any notions that Newton wasn’t his kind of quarterback.
Not only did he inherit Ron Rivera as a coach, he also inherited Newton as his quarterback when he was hired after the 2012 season. It’s not uncommon for a new general manager to bring in “his guys.” But with the exception of adding a veteran scout, Gettleman has kept the coaches, staff and quarterback intact.
“You know, people want to create news where there isn’t any news,” Gettleman said. “I know I’m really boring, but here’s nothing to create here. There are no double entendres or fake right and go left. I’ve been here for two years. I don’t lie, you know that. I’m just telling you: he’s a franchise quarterback and the contract will get done when it gets done.”
Newton’s camp has been mum on the quarterback’s contract situation in recent months. But in November when the Panthers were 3-7-1, several sources close to Newton indicated he wanted to lead a winner in Charlotte.
Two months later, he was in the playoffs for the second consecutive year and won the first playoff game of his career.
Newton is currently under contract through 2015 while playing under his fifth-year option, worth $14.667 million. The Panthers have the option to franchise tag Newton for his sixth season, and early projections have that around $18.5 million for the 2016 season.
The franchise tag option would be a last resort, though, as both sides want to get a long-term deal accomplished. If Newton’s second contract is like those of his contemporaries, it would be a six-year deal worth more than $100 million.
After contract talks stalled in the summer, they didn’t pick back up because the team wanted Newton to focus on the season, a team source said in November.
Second contracts have already been secured for quarterbacks in Newton’s 2011 draft class, such as Cincinnati’s Andy Dalton and San Francisco’s Colin Kaepernick. And last week with their teams in the conference championship games, Indianapolis’ Andrew Luck and Seattle’s Russell Wilson were reportedly going to sign long-term deals this offseason after coming into the NFL one year after Newton.
Gettleman pointed out that Seattle and Indianapolis – as well as Green Bay, San Francisco, Baltimore, New England, Denver and Cincinnati – have gone to the playoffs at least three times in the past four years. He noted the common denominator is that all eight teams have franchise quarterbacks, and a playoff trip for Carolina next season would make nine teams.
“We’re a quarterback-driven league. That’s just the way it is,” said Gettleman, a former scout for the Bills and Broncos and former executive with the Giants.
“I’ve been spoiled. (Jim) Kelly, (John) Elway and (Eli) Manning. Not too bad, huh? And now it’s Cam.”