Closer Look at Cam Newton’s Contract

The numbers on the contract for Cam Newton were posted this morning by Joel Corry of CBS Sports, so now we have a very concrete idea of the contract breakdown. The contract looks to be a near exact match for Matt Ryan’s with a signing and option bonus structure over the term of the deal. Newton’s contract is clearly one of the big four in the NFL now that the breakdown is available and is not loaded with out clauses like in many of the contracts the young quarterbacks in the NFL have recently signed.

Here is the yearly cash breakdown of the big four players I referenced above.

PlayerYear 0Year 1Year 2Year 3Year 4Year 5
Roethlisberger$23,650,000$41,400,000$53,400,000$70,400,000$87,400,000 –

In looking at the numbers, about the only tradeoff for Newton is the lower “Year 0” new money salary (prepayment on the extension years) but that was likely to be expected considering his $14.666 million salary that was already on the books this year. His total income of $31 million this season does surpass Ryans total cash in the first year of his contract by $1 million.

The contract more or less mimics Matt Ryans, throughout. Ryan is probably the most logical comparison for Newton since he had a high draft pedigree (Ryan was picked 3rd and Cam 1st) and limited playoff success. Ryan put up better numbers than Newton, but there are two ways that it could looked at when comparing the two deals.

One is that Ryan had a supporting cast that included Julio Jones, Tony Gonzalez, and Roddy White plus an effective Michael Turner at the time of signing. This is in contrast to Newton’s cast of injured running backs, Greg Olsen, an older Steve Smith, Jerricho Cotchery, etc…Newton is one of the few quarterbacks in the NFL where I think a clear argument can made that he had no help at all in Carolina when it came to padding his stats.

The second is simply that if we adjust for inflation Newton’s contract is lesser than Ryan’s. Ryan signed his contract in 2013 at the time when the cap was relatively flat and projected to barely increase over the next few years. Since then, however, it has increased surprisingy by over 15% despite the projections of limited raises each year. So if we consider contracts to grow linearly with the cap (they dont as a practical matter) you could argue that the lesser stats are taken into account by having the same price here.

Regardless I would consider this one of the strongest player friendly contracts in the NFL based on size, structure, cash flows, and likelihood of earning. Of the big 4 (and Joe Flacco, not listed) Rodgers has the most team friendly deal due to the Packers extending him when he had two years remaining on his prior contract.

I have to wonder somewhat if the Carolina cap problems of the past kept them from extending Cam sooner or if the sides were that far apart and waiting to confirm that the cap was increasing before going over $20 million, which became a certainty after Ryan Tannehill recently signed a contract. Based on the structure of this contract I can’t picture anything that Newton did last season to change their opinion to jump into this and I would think they would have made out better by extending him a year earlier in terms of contract flexibility.

Had the Panthers franchised Newton for the next three seasons it would have cost them a minimum of $69.1 million between 2016 and 2018.  His new money cash flow over that time is $68 million so the Panthers do gain a few dollars over the three year period, but the cash they will pay him over the first two seasons far exceeds his franchise tag figures unless they were going to use the non-exclusive franchise tag. So this was a far better option for both sides than playing it out and going the tag route.

It is also possible that the Panthers realized just how poor the quarterbacks are in the NFL and that there was litte college talent on the horizon to even consider an alternative solution. At this point every quarterback in the NFL considered to be worth anything is locked up and earns, in most cases, over $17 million a year. The available players are true journeymen like Josh McCown, Ryan Fitzpatrick and Matt Cassel and those players are going nowhere fast on their respective teams. If you pulled Newton off the Panthers their offense would be horrible.