Although his skills are unquestioned and his freakish 6-foot-5, 245-pound frame, speed and arm strength have incited more than a few awe-inspiring moments in his four-year tenure as Carolina Panthers QB, Cam Newton doesn't always get his props as an elite field general. He's carried an offensively inept squad on his shoulders and taken them to the playoffs and endured more hits than any other QB in the game.
Newton rarely complains about not having the weapons to compete with the aerial maestros of the NFL and proudly says, no quarterback "has ever been who I am trying to be."
I'm sure $100 million man was somewhere on Newton's bucket list and Cam has accomplished that as Carolina has re-committed to the All-Pro pigskin passer with a new five-year, $103.8 million extension, including more than $60 million guaranteed, on Tuesday.
He's the first African-American QB to break the $100 million mark since Mike Vick did it twice; first in 2005, signing a $130 million,10-year deal with Atlanta and then fleecing Philly for another $100 million in 2011 after doing a bid in prison for dog fighting.
While some analysts, fan clones and fair-weathered observers choose to ignore Cam's intangibles, supreme leadership, guts and lack of resources, the Carolina Panthers ain't stupid. They didn't forget that this cat was born to be a prolific baller. They've accepted the fact that he needs more weapons and are addressing that side of the ball in each draft. Cam won the Heisman Trophy and led Auburn to an undefeated record and national championship in 2010. A year later, he became the first NFL rookie to toss for 4,000 yards and he rushed for over 700 more.
Newton, 26, is entering the fifth-year option of his rookie contract. He will be paid $14.66 million in 2015. The contract will eventually put Newton in the company of the Saints' Drew Brees as a quarterback with a $20 million average annual salary. Other quarterbacks with $20 million per year deals are the Packers' Aaron Rodgers, Steelers' Ben Roethlisberger, Falcons' Matt Ryan and Ravens' Joe Flacco.
Newton's career record is a mediocre 30-31-1 and his 1-2 playoff record doesn't say he sucks in the clutch, but it doesn't scream, "Your'e that dude" either.
However, the prevailing theory is that the inconsistency in victories can be attributed to the pieces around him rather than his actual play. Similar to Andrew Luck in Indy (who is also negotiating a new contract) Cam is forced to take the game into his own hands at times. When the cash is on the table, he tries to go in and close the deal by any means necessary, even sacrificing his own well-being to get that W.
A QB with a will like Cam's and the all-world skills to match is the kind of field general every winning franchise seeks and secures when they have the opportunity. Word to the ESPN homie Jemele Hill, Cam's numbers don't lie. He has the most rushing yards (2,571) by a quarterback in his first four NFL seasons during the Super Bowl era.
Only Dan Marino (144) and Peyton Manning (118) have had more touchdowns in their first four seasons than Newton, who has 115 (82 passing, 33 rushing). His 33 rushing touchdowns, behind an at-best-average offensive line, is the most by a quarterback since 2011. Running back Shady McCoy, who led the league in rushing in 2013, has the same number of touchdowns during that span -- and 17 of those came in 2011.
In addition to the gaudy numbers, Newton's charismatic personality generates more money for the Panthers and the NFL. Off the field, he has a certain charm and his Tyson Beckford-looks make him major marketing material. He's already on Brady and Manning's level as far as public appeal goes.
He's got tons of endorsements and he turns down three times as many as he accepts. Newton should earn close to $11 million in endorsements in 2015, a number that only Manning surpasses.
Unlike Ryan Tannehill, who was blessed by an excessively-generous Dolphin's front office in May with his own $96 million extension ($45 million of which is guaranteed), Newton might still be underpaid considering his impact beyond football and the visibility he brings a middle-of-the-pack franchise like the Panthers. Moving forward, it will be interesting to see how this deal affects the negotiations between Russell Wilson and Seattle. The sides haven't agreed on a monetary affirmation of Wilson's worth.
Danny O’Neil of 710 ESPN in Seattle reports that the Seahawks have a four-year offer on the table with a value that is “believed to be worth closer to $80 million” than $100 million. If the number is $80 million over four years, that means Wilson would get $81.5 million over five, an average of $16.3 million per year. And that’s far below market value. It’s also far below what Wilson will earn if he plays out the last year of his contract and forces the Seahawks to use the franchise tag in 2016, 2017, and perhaps 2018.
Maybe the Super Bowl-winning QB could justify making a bit less than Killa' Cam, whose value to the NFL and home city justifies his financial rewards. But it will be hard for the ultra-competitive Wilson to digest making less than Tannehill, who in my opinion is no more than the AFC's Matt Ryan; a guy who will post eye-popping and misleading stats and prove to you why he isn't elite come playoff time.
This will be an interesting situation to keep an eye on. Two African-American QBs at the top of the NFL food chain and one of them, Wilson, has a ring and is still fighting for respectability. Another has felt beaten and unappreciated at times so he can relate, but right now, is on top of the world and feeling loved. Today, Cam Newton should have no complaints.
For he is appreciated.