Cam Newton barely makes top 10 list of highest-paid quarterbacks

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton was the third-highest paid quarterback in the NFL based on average salary per year when he signed a five-year, $103.8 million deal in June of 2015.

Now he’s 10th.

ESPN.com’s Kevin Seifert broke down the highest-paid players by position based on average salary now that most of the big money has been spent in free agency.

Newton topped the Panthers with an average of $20.76 million, which at the time the deal was signed trailed only Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers ($22 million) and Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger ($21.85 million) among quarterbacks.

Rodgers now ranks fifth and Roethlisberger seventh.

Indianapolis’ Andrew Luck tops the quarterbacks now with an average of $24.594 million, followed by New Orleans’ Drew Brees ($24.25 million) and Washington’s Kirk Cousins ($23.944 million).

Only three other Panthers made Seifert’s rankings, which can be found in its entirety here.

Jonathan Stewart ranks third among running backs with an average salary of $7.3 million. He trails Pittsburgh’s Le’Veon Bell ($12.083 million) and Buffalo’s LeSean McCoy ($8.01 million).

Three-time Pro Bowl selection Greg Olsen ranks seventh among tight ends at $7.5 million. Seattle’s Jimmy Graham is first at $10 million a year.

Carolina’s best deal may be 2013 NFL Defensive Player of the Year Luke Kuechly, who ranks seventh among linebackers at $12.359 million a year. Denver’s Von Miller leads the way at $19.083 million, followed by Kansas City’s Justin Houston at $16.833 million.

Free-agent acquisition Matt Kalil fell just outside the top 10 among left tackles with an average salary of $11.1 million a year. Kalil got a five-year, $55.5 million deal with $25 guaranteed at the start of free agency.

Kawann Short, who was given the franchise tag by Carolina, didn’t make the top five paid defensive tackles ranked by Seifert. He came is sixth at $13.468 million.

Don’t look for the Panthers to add another player to this list in free agency with only about $14 million left under the salary cap. That is, unless a long-term deal can be reached with Short and his number jumps into the top five.

But for the most part this list shows that general manager Dave Gettleman has been diligent in keeping salaries of his marquee players at a reasonable number that allows him to keep the cap under control.

That includes Newton, the 2015 NFL MVP, who barely made the top 10 ahead of 2016 NFL MVP Matt Ryan ($20.75 million) of Atlanta.