NFL: What You Need to Know About Cam Newton’s Big Contract

Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

The Carolina Panthers and quarterback Cam Newton are, for all intents and purposes, now married for the immediate and foreseeable future. In the heart of the offseason the team signed Newton to a five-year, $103.8 million contract extension that includes $60 million in guaranteed money. The only other people that may be happier than Newton are fellow quarterbacks Russell Wilson and Andrew Luck, whose agents will surely use this contract as a negotiation tool.

Regardless of how you look at it, a nine-figure contract extension is jaw-dropping. What’s even more astonishing is the value of Newton’s contract over the next three years. The 2010 Heisman Trophy winner is scheduled to earn $67.8 million over the next three years, which is the second-highest first-three-year contract value in NFL history. Here is a year-by-year breakdown of Newton’s newly signed contract:

  • 2015:
    • Base Salary – $1,000,000
    • Signing Bonus (prorated) – $4,500,000
    • Roster Bonus – $7,500,000
    • Total Salary Cap Hit – $13,000,000
  • 2016:
    • Base Salary – $13,000,000
    • Signing Bonus (prorated) – $4,500,000
    • Option Bonus – $2,000,000
    • Total Salary Cap Hit – $19,500,000
  • 2017:
    • Base Salary – $13,666,666
    • Signing Bonus (prorated) – $4,500,000
    • Option Bonus – $2,000,000
    • Total Salary Cap Hit – $20,166,666
  • 2018:
    • Base Salary – $15,000,000
    • Signing Bonus (prorated) – $4,500,000
    • Option Bonus – $2,000,000
    • Total Salary Cap Hit – $21,500,00
  • 2019:
    • Base Salary – $16,700,000
    • Signing Bonus (prorated) – $4,500,000
    • Option Bonus – $2,000,000
    • Total Salary Cap Hit – $23,200,000
  • 2020:
    • Base Salary – $19,100,000
    • Option Bonus – $2,000,000
    • Total Salary Cap Hit – $21,100,000

* Newton’s signing bonus of $22,500,000 was paid at the time he signed the contract, but for salary cap purposes, that figure is prorated over the life of the contract.

Newton’s freshly inked contract will pay the 2011 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year an average of $20.76 million per year over the next five years, and makes him the third-highest paid player in the league in terms of per-year contract value. While that last fact may seem a bit absurd, Newton’s contract is actually right in line with the mega-deals signed by Colin Kaepernick, Andy Dalton, Jay Cutler, and Ryan Tannehill over the course of the last year.

Streeter Lecka/Getty Images
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Since taking over as the Panthers’ starting quarterback in 2011, Newton has flashed signs of brilliance, mixed with stretches of inconsistent play. With that being said, he is far more deserving of being paid franchise quarterback type of money than several of his peers who have recently signed huge contract extensions. While Newton may not be considered to be elite at this point in time, he is far closer than the like of Kaepernick, Dalton, Cutler, and Tannehill.

Here is a quick look at Newton’s career statistics:

  • 30-31-1 overall record
  • 1-2 postseason record
  • 59.5% completion percentage
  • 14,426 passing yards
  • 82 touchdown passes
  • 54 interceptions
  • 85.4 quarterback rating
  • 2,571 rushing yards
  • 33 rushing touchdowns

Those numbers may be relatively modest, and don’t quite jump off of the page, but they do compare favorably to the career statistics of several quarterbacks around the league. But do they make Newton worthy of a contract that pays him as if he is a top-five NFL quarterback? Probably not. According to Pro Football Focus (PFF), Newton has had only one season during his career where he was a top-10 quarterback in the league. Here is a year-by-year breakdown of Newton’s PFF rankings:

  • 2011:  14th
  • 2012:  11th
  • 2013:  15th
  • 2014:  8th

Those statistics would suggest that Carolina chose to pay Newton based on the player they expect him to become, not the player that he is today. However, the following fact may actually suggest the opposite. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Newton is 14-4 in regular season games after the month of December. The only quarterback with more wins over that same time period is Tom Brady.

At the end of the day, the Panthers basically had no other option than to lock Newton up for the long term. Will he go on to achieve Tom Brady or Peyton Manning-esque greatness? Probably not. Has he proven to be capable of leading the Panthers to the postseason and performing like a top-10 quarterback? Absolutely. With the ratification of this contract, the Panthers’ already high expectations for Newton just reached another level.

All statistics courtesy of Pro-Football-Reference, all salary cap and contract data courtesy of Spotrac.