- David Newton, ESPN Staff Writer
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SPARTANBURG, S.C. -- The parameters for Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton's next contract became a bit clearer when Andy Dalton's new deal was announced Monday, but the timing of when that deal will come is not.
In all likelihood, it won't be for a while.
The Cincinnati Bengals signed Dalton to a six-year, $115 deal that reportedly is closer to $96 million with escalators and clauses. It is structured similarly to the six-year, $126 million deal -- closer to $114 million in reality -- that San Francisco's Colin Kaepernick received this year.
They are the first two high-profile quarterbacks drafted in 2011 under the new collective bargaining agreement to get new deals.
Dalton was the third pick of the second round, one pick ahead of Kaepernick.
Newton was the top pick that season. Though his overall regular-season record of 25-23 isn't as good as that of Dalton (30-18) or Kaepernick (17-6), Newton has made the Pro Bowl twice and positioned himself to make more than either with last season's 12-4 record and celebrity status.
Exactly when the Panthers will make a move is anybody's guess, but it would surprise if it came before the tail end of this season. It more than likely will come early in 2015.
The Panthers don't have to be in a hurry because they exercised the fifth-year option on Newton in April, which locks him up through the 2015 season.
That they remain somewhat strapped under the salary cap also is an issue. They have about $4.7 million in cap space, but general manager Dave Gettleman would like to keep a decent cushion in case he has to sign additional players late in training camp or early in the season, as he did a year ago because of injuries.
Newton doesn't appear pressed to get a new deal, either. He had no issue with the fifth-year option that will pay him $14,666,666 in 2015. That is well below the average $19.2 million Dalton will get with his new deal, but not a number that makes the Panthers likely to rush into negotiations.
Newton's base salary for this season is $3,378,477 and his 2014 salary cap number is $7,000,113, so for the moment, the Panthers have a steal.
While Newton's value certainly would go up if he leads Carolina to the playoffs for a second straight season or makes another Pro Bowl, the Panthers already are on record as saying he is their "franchise quarterback."
In other words, they expect to pay a big price.
The deals of Dalton and Kaepernick are about as close as Newton will have for comparisons among 2011 quarterbacks.
The Titans declined to pick up Locker's fifth-year option in May. Gabbert was traded to San Francisco in March to be a backup to Kaepernick. The Vikings did not pick up the fifth-year option on Ponder, who lost his starting job to Matt Cassel last season.
Meanwhile, Newton is having a solid training camp after having offseason surgery on his left ankle. As he has said repeatedly, recovering from that and getting ready for the season is his priority.