CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Coach Ron Rivera said the Panthers remain committed to Cam Newton as their long-term quarterback, even though they’ve not yet signed the former No. 1 overall draft pick to a long-term contract extension.
“He’s our guy,” Rivera said. “We drafted him in the first round for a reason. Everything will happen in due time.”
Cincinnati’s Andy Dalton and San Francisco’s Colin Kaepernick were drafted in 2011 like Newton.
They’ve both already received hefty raises. Dalton got a six-year extension worth $115 million, while Kaepernick got a six-year deal worth $122 million.
The difference with Dalton and Kaepernick is both were second-round picks whose rookie contracts were set to expire after this season. However, Newton, because he was drafted in the top 15 in 2011, was required to sign a four-year deal with a club option for a fifth season.
The Panthers exercised that option earlier this year.
Newton is making a base salary of $3.3 million this year, but is slated to get a bump to $14.6 million in 2015 — unless he signs a long-term deal before then.
Newton’s representatives did not return phone calls seeking comment about the two-time Pro Bowler’s contract situation.
Panthers general manager Dave Gettleman did not respond to test messages, but his standing policy has been not to comment on contractual issues during the season.
On Sunday, Newton and Dalton will square off when the Panthers take on Cincinnati.
Bengals coach Marvin Lewis said one of the reasons the Bengals handed Dalton a contract extension before the season was to avoid it becoming a distraction during the regular season.
“We all hoped this thing would get done and rectified and he could move forward so he didn’t have to answer that question every press conference,” Lewis said. “And heaven forbid you have a bad week and so forth, and now that becomes the topic of discussion. Now he’s just been able to go and be Andy and play and do his thing, which he’s done very well.”
Newton has been asked several times this year about his contract, but each time has brushed off the question.
“I think contract talk is the last of my worries. I think I have my plate full with preparing for the Cincinnati Bengals,” Newton said on Wednesday. “We’ll keep it at that.”
When pressed on if he wants to remain with the Panthers for the long-term, Newton said “I would like to finish Sunday and the Carolina Panthers’ record will be 4-2.”
Newton is 27-25 as Carolina’s starting quarterback in four seasons and has completed 59.9 percent of his passes for 12,282 yards with 69 touchdowns and 43 interceptions. He’s also run for 2,074 yards and 28 TDs.
With ankle and rib injuries limiting Newton to 14 carries this season, he’s been forced to prove he can succeed as a pocket passer.
So far he’s done a pretty good job, completing 79 of 129 passes for 983 yards with five touchdown passes and one interception for a career-high QB rating of 94.6.
Olsen said when Newton has continued to develop as a passer.
“I think he’s throwing the ball as good, if not better, than he’s ever thrown the ball since I’ve been here,” Olsen said. “And that’s saying a lot because he’s been pretty productive throwing the ball.”
The Panthers are slowly working Newton back into the running game.
Carolina ran a handful of read option plays last Sunday against Chicago, and Lewis expects he’ll see even more this week from Newton.
“They had the design runs back in the offense. They’re feeling better about where he is physically,” Lewis said. “The fact that it’s back in the plan, I would imagine they’ll continue to expand upon those things.”
Olsen said he’s looking forward to when Newton is completely healthy and comfortable attacking defenses with his legs, too.
“As he gets healthier and continues to get his leg under him and gets back to doing what he can do, with the way he’s throwing the ball now, that is really going to be special,” Olsen said.