Carolina Panthers - TeamReport
NFL Team Report - Carolina Panthers - INSIDE SLANT
Carolina Panthers general manager Dave Gettleman said Tuesday the team is expected to exercise its fifth-year option on quarterback Cam Newton, keeping him in Carolina at least two more seasons.
Carolina has until May 3 to inform Newton and his representation it will use the fifth-year option that was built into the new collective bargaining agreement in 2011.
Newton is recovering from ankle surgery but is expected to be ready for training camp. He is expected to miss four months of offseason work.
Under the collective bargaining agreement, Newton will be entitled to the average of the league's 10 highest-paid quarterbacks in 2015. Estimates for that are around $13.7 million, but it could change, according to ESPN.com.
The Panthers likely won't get to the fifth year of Newton's contract, as they seek to sign the first pick of the 2011 draft to a long-term deal.
Gettleman reaffirmed Tuesday that the surgery went well and there are no concerns with Newton physically.
The fifth-year option buys Carolina time to get a new deal done without risk of Newton becoming a free agent after next season.
"This is the first time this has all happened," Gettleman said of the fifth-year option. "As you plan, as you think about it, as you make decisions, the thing you have to remember is, I know that every decision I make, there's a message being sent to the locker room. And that's impactful."
Although ESPN.com reported the injury occurred in Week 16 last season, head coach Ron Rivera recently told the Charlotte Observer it's actually an injury that began while Newton was in college.
Rivera said, "They went through what they do normally. Every year it's been the same thing for the last couple years. This time when he started, after the rest and everything, it wasn't getting as well as fast as it had last time. "They went through the (process), looked at it and decided this was the best course of action for him."
The 24-year-old Newton completed his third year with the Panthers in 2013, passing for 3,379 yards and 24 touchdowns with 13 interceptions in 16 regular-season starts. He added 585 yards rushing and six touchdowns on the ground in leading Carolina to the playoffs.
--With wide receiver Steve Smith gone, not only does quarterback Cam Newton need some more firepower, but he also could use some more protection.
The Panthers have a Pro Bowler in center Ryan Kalil, but come Week 1, the four other offensive line positions could be filled by guys other than the ones who started the majority of games last season.
At guard, the Panthers are putting a lot of faith in Amini Silatolu returning from an ACL tear and Edmund Kugbila coming back from a lost rookie season. At tackle, Jordan Gross has been enjoying retirement for a couple months already and Byron Bell isn't necessarily an ideal starter.
Carolina not only needs to fill holes on the line, they have to fill those holes with better, bigger and faster talent.
Defensively, after franchising defensive end Greg Hardy, the Panthers front seven remains one of the scariest in the league. But the secondary may have to be completely rebuilt, and that unit was the team's most suspect position on the team last season.
A 12-4 record was great last winter, but this spring its put Carolina in the unfortunate position of having a late first-round pick. The 28th spot isn't all that ideal when you have so many holes to fill. And after committing more than $13 million to Hardy for his tag, the team is tight against the salary cap again.
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