Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton set for $100m extension

Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton set for $100m extension

The first overall pick of the 2011 NFL draft is set to enter the upper echelon of paid players when Cam Newton puts pen to paper on a new five-year contract extension later this week.

The Carolina Panthers are close to agreeing terms with their star quarterback Cam Newton in a deal which will see the former Heisman Trophy winner earn over $20m per year through to the 2020 season. The Panthers took up the fifth-year option on Newton’s rookie deal last season and this bumper contract will put the 26 year-old among the league’s highest paid signal-callers.
There are currently five quarterbacks who receive an average of $20m or more per year in contract money; Drew Brees, Joe Flacco, Matt Ryan, Ben Roethlisberger and Aaron Rodgers. Four of those players have won the Super Bowl – “Big Ben” has won it twice – while all five have shown a level of consistency far exceeding what Newton has been able to produce during his first four seasons.

Newton’s regular season record is a jarringly pedestrian 30-31-1, and despite winning back-to-back NFC South championships over the past two seasons, last year’s 7-8-1 “winning” record won’t do much to convince those who view the Auburn product as a middle-of-the-pack quarterback. He has featured in just three post-season games – losing two of them – and his lack of big-game experience is one of the primary question marks when attempting to determine his value. When Baltimore Ravens Joe Flacco won the Super Bowl in 2012, he proved his worth in high-pressure situations and ultimately earned himself a six-year contract worth $120m. Newton has had to show no such prowess in earning his new contract.

There is no doubt surrounding Newton’s athletic ability. He’s one of the fastest and most agile quarterbacks in the league and he has a cannon for an arm, but the flaws in his game are just too big to ignore. Since entering the league, Newton has been sacked 152 times, most in the NFL by a considerable distance. Some of the blame must lie with the Panthers’ offensive line, but the crux of the problem is Newton’s lack of pocket awareness. When put in obvious passing situations where he can’t extend the play with his legs, Newton hangs onto the ball for far too long and doesn’t have the built-in sense of pressure possessed by the likes of Russell Wilson and Andrew Luck. Not only has this led to an unexpectedly high number of fumbles, it also makes Newton susceptible to injury – last season he admitted to playing hurt for most of the year.

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The other major criticism Newton seems to face on a routine basis involves his passing accuracy, and the numbers suggest that criticism is well founded. During the 2014/15 season, Newton completed 262 of 448 passing attempts giving him a completion percentage of 58.5, ranking him 29th out of the 33 quarterbacks who played significant game-time. Some will site his injury troubles as a contributing factor, others will point to the loss of veteran wide-out Steve Smith as the reason for his passing woes. Most will say a quarterback set to earn over $100m in the next five years should be completing a higher percentage of passes than Geno Smith. One thing is for certain, the Indianapolis Colts and Seattle Seahawks will have to get their pocket books out next year with Luck and Wilson set to cash in following the conclusion of their respective rookie deals.