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Panthers exercise fifth-year option on Cam Newton's rookie deal

By John Breech | CBSSports.com

As expected, the Panthers have picked up Cam Newton's fifth-year option. (USATSI)
As expected, the Panthers have picked up Cam Newton's fifth-year option. (USATSI)

More NFL offseason: Mock Drafts | Prospect Rankings | Pro days | Top free agents

Panthers general manager Dave Gettleman has had to make some difficult decisions this offseason -- like getting rid of wide receiver Steve Smith. However, Gettleman got to make an easy decision Thursday in picking up the fifth-year option on Cam Newton's rookie contract.

CBS Sports NFL Insider Jason La Canfora reports that the Panthers have officially submitted the paperwork. That means Newton will be in Carolina through at least the 2015 season. You can bet the two sides will also be eventually working on a deal that will keep Newton in Carolina well beyond 2015.

Barring an extension, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft will play the 2014 season under the terms of his original rookie deal -- a four-year contract that paid on an average of $5.5 million per season. In the 2015 option year, Newton's salary will jump up to $14.67 million.

Newton will earn that money if he keeps getting the Panthers to the playoffs. For the first time in his three years with the team, Newton led Carolina to the postseason in 2013. Newton threw 24 touchdown passes and completed 61.7 percent of his passes last season, both career-highs.

Every team in the NFL has the choice of picking up the fifth-year option on any player who was selected in the first round of the 2011 draft. You can keep track of everyone who's had their option picked up by clicking here.

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