Football

Panthers exercise 5th-year option on QB Newton

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Cam Newton is now under contract with the Carolina Panthers for the next two seasons.

The Panthers exercised the fifth-year option on Newton's contract, meaning the former No. 1 draft pick will be with the team at least through the end of the 2015 season. The team made the announcement Friday, after previously indicating it hoped to sign Newton to a long-term deal.

Newton is slated to make $3.37 million this season and would receive $14.67 million in 2015 if he doesn't sign a contract extension before then. By exercising the option on Newton's rookie deal from 2011, the salary-cap strapped Panthers will have more time to work out a longer contract with the three-year NFL veteran and former Heisman Trophy winner.

Panthers general manager Dave Gettleman did not return phone calls Friday seeking comment. Newton said earlier in the week he's "absolutely fine" with the Panthers picking up the fifth year, but referred all contract talks to his agents and the Panthers front office.

"I'm trying to get back to the playoffs and do something the Carolina Panthers haven't ever done in back to back years," Newton said. Newton has started all 48 games during his three seasons with Carolina.

Newton led the Panthers to a 12-4 record and the NFC South championship last year, completing a career-high 61.7 percent of his passes with 24 touchdowns passing and six touchdowns rushing. The Panthers lost at home in the divisional playoffs to San Francisco. After that loss, Gettleman said he had no doubt he views Newton was the team's franchise quarterback.

"He proved it this year," Gettleman said on Jan. 14. "He flat proved it."

Online:

AP NFL website: http://www.pro32.ap.org

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