The seal that capped the rookie contracts of the first-round draft picks from 2011 was broken last week when Arizona Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson and Dallas Cowboys offensive tackle Tyron Smith signed lucrative, long-term extensions.
Peterson, drafted fifth overall in 2011, received a five-year extension worth $70 million, with $48 million guaranteed.
Smith, the No. 9 pick in 2011 in the first year of the new collective bargaining agreement, agreed to an 8-year extension that will pay him $110 million over 10 years.
The question is when will the Carolina Panthers lock up quarterback Cam Newton, the first overall pick in ’11, with a long-term deal?
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In April, the Panthers exercised the club option on Newton for 2015, so they’re under no pressure to get a deal done now. And it might be prudent for general manager Dave Gettleman and the front office to wait to see how Newton’s surgically repaired left ankle holds up this season.
But waiting to extend Newton could cost Carolina more if Newton puts together another Pro Bowl season, and/or leads the Panthers to the playoffs despite a supporting cast that on paper appears to lack big playmakers.
Owners tired of sinking millions into unproven rookies who might become the next JaMarcus Russell made sure a rookie wage scale was a big piece of the new labor agreement.
Newton will make a guaranteed $22 million over his first four seasons, and the 2015 option is worth $14.67 million. That pales in comparison to the $50 million in guaranteed money St. Louis quarterback Sam Bradford received as the first pick in the 2010 draft.
Gettleman has said on multiple occasions he views Newton as the team’s quarterback of the future, but he won’t comment on contractual issues. Newton’s representatives aren’t saying anything publicly.
Newton said in April he would “absolutely” be OK if the Panthers exercised their 2015 option.
At least one industry expert doesn’t expect the Peterson and Smith extensions to open the floodgates for long-term deals for the other first-round picks from 2011.
Joel Corry, a former sports agent who writes about NFL contracts for CBSSports.com, believes Newton will get an extension sometime between the end of the 2014 season and the start of next year’s training camp.
The Panthers currently are about $5 million under the salary cap, but Gettleman has shown an ability to create space by restructuring contracts and getting selected veterans to accept salary cuts.
Corry says historically teams have not done extensions for first-round picks until their contract year. He points to Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford, who signed a three-year extension last summer with two years remaining on his original deal, as an exception to the rule.
But the class of 2011 came into the league under a completely different set of parameters, and time will tell if the old rules still apply.
King for three days: After an unremarkable showing at OTAs and minicamp, second-year wideout Tavarres King spent the last few days demonstrating why Gettleman kept him on the active roster last season.
King came down with one-handed catches Thursday and Friday, the first one a touchdown grab. King, claimed off waivers from Denver last October, says he’s finding his groove and getting comfortable in the offense.
When Gettleman kept King and Marvin McNutt in the midst of an overhaul at receiver, observers wondered whether he’d found the next Victor Cruz. The Giants discovered Cruz at a tryout for local players in 2010 when Gettleman was in New York’s front office.
Asked about the Cruz comparison Saturday, King said: “I can’t salsa. But I can catch the ball and I can run a little bit.”
King was referring to Cruz’ signature end zone celebration, and said he might “act a fool” when King gets into the end zone. But King turned serious – and confident – when asked whether he expected to be on the team after final cuts.
“Absolutely. Most certainly,” he said. “It’d be a shame if I let this thing slip through my hands.”