GM expects to use option on Newton

ORLANDO, Fla. -- The Carolina Panthers expect to use the fifth-year option to lock up Cam Newton through 2015 and give the team time to negotiate a long-term deal with the quarterback.

"Yes," general manager Dave Gettleman said Tuesday at the NFL owners meeting. "Yes, that's a fair statement."

Carolina has until May 3 to inform Newton and his representation it will use the fifth-year option that was built into the new collective bargaining agreement.

The team likely will wait until the last minute, because once the option goes into effect, the fifth-year salary becomes guaranteed.

Under the collective bargaining agreement, Newton will be entitled to the average of the league's 10 highest-paid quarterbacks in 2015. Estimates for that are around $13.7 million, but it could change.

The Panthers likely won't get to the fifth year of Newton's contract, as they remain intent on signing the first pick of the 2011 draft to a long-term deal.

Newton had surgery on his left ankle last Wednesday and is expected to miss four months of offseason work.

Gettleman reaffirmed Tuesday that the surgery went well and there are no concerns with Newton physically. He insisted Newton will be a member of the Panthers for a long time.

Newton recently said it is his goal to be with the Panthers long term and he had no plans to hold out to force the team into a long-term deal.

The fifth-year option buys Carolina, which is strapped under the salary cap, time to get that new deal done without risk of Newton becoming a free agent after next season.

"This is the first time this has all happened," Gettleman said of the fifth-year option. "As you plan, as you think about it, as you make decisions, the thing you have to remember is, I know that every decision I make, there's a message being sent to the locker room. And that's impactful."