Panthers quarterback Cam Newton has a five-year contract, with one year expired. And so, naturally, Panthers fans are concerned that he’ll finish out the next four seasons and bolt for a bigger city.
According to Newton himself, fans need not worry.
“I describe Charlotte as a very clean city, and that’s not being derogatory to cities I was in before. But it’s just so much on the rise, with what Charlotte is about to become,” Newton said Thursday at a charity event, according to Joseph Person of the Charlotte Observer. “We have a minor league baseball that’s up and coming. The Bobcats, a professional NBA team. NFL team. So it’s on the up and up is basically what I’m trying to say. This is the peak of time that you want to make an impact in the city.
“It’s not like Atlanta. It’s not like Miami. It’s not like Los Angeles. I understand that and I know that. But it’s one of many cities in the nation that is on the rise.”
Newton added that he wants to “embrace Charlotte.”
Apart from Newton’s intentions, the reality is that the Panthers are uniquely positioned to keep him over the long haul. After the 2013 season, the Panthers (and, barring a trade, only the Panthers) can rip up his rookie deal and give him a significant raise. If he doesn’t want a significant raise at that point, he’d have to spend one more year in Charlotte at a base salary of $3.378 million, under the incredibly modest terms of a rookie deal worth a total of only $22 million over four years.
Even then, the Panthers hold an option on a fifth year, at a salary based on the average value of the five highest-paid players at his position. After that, the Panthers can use the franchise tag for as many years as they want.
That said, things can get dicey if a quarterback wants out. But the path of least resistance for Newton will be to accept a big-money extension when the Panthers are ready to give it to him, and the Panthers should be ready to give it to him as soon as he finishes his third NFL season.