Before this year’s NFL Draft, the Carolina Panthers traded up to secure the No. 1 pick. They chose Bryce Young, the former Alabama quarterback who led the Crimson Tide to a championship in 2020 and won the Heisman Trophy and AP Player of the Year in 2021.
Young and the Panthers have officially agreed on his rookie contract. He’ll make a fully guaranteed $37.9 million over four seasons, or just under $9.5 million per year. And he’ll be tasked with leading the Panthers back to the playoffs for the first time since 2017. The team hasn’t won a playoff game since reaching the Super Bowl in 2015.
Back then, Cam Newton was the Panthers’ quarterback. Carolina selected him first overall in 2011. How does Young’s contract stack up against Newton’s?
As it turns out, Young’s deal is much more favorable. Both Newton and Young signed for four seasons after being selected No. 1, but Newton’s overall contract value was $22 million, meaning Young will make nearly $16 million more overall and about $4 million more per year.
Newton didn’t play last season. Though he’s still attempting to make an NFL roster this year, it’s possible his career is over. If he has indeed played his last snap, he’ll finish with about $133.5 million in career earnings.
Newton also had the unfortunate timing of joining the NFL the year the league’s new collective bargaining agreement kicked in. Rookie salaries were one of the largest sticking points for Commissioner Roger Goodell. Ultimately, the league enforced a cap on rookie contracts, with those savings going to veteran players instead.
Just look at the quarterbacks taken first overall the two years before Newton. Sam Bradford was the No. 1 pick of the 2010 NFL Draft, and he signed a six-year, $78 million deal, the largest rookie contract in NFL history. That followed a six-year, $72 million deal for Matthew Stafford in 2009, who was the No. 1 pick for the Detroit Lions.
Rookie deals are still capped, so this is the maximum amount of money Young can sign right out of college. However, if he performs well during these first four seasons, he could set himself up for a massive payday later this decade. A whopping 17 quarterbacks will make at least $24 million this upcoming season. By the time Young is eligible for a new deal, the norm might be even closer to $30 million per year.
For now, Young is likely still on Cloud Nine. After all, it’s not every day you get to sign an NFL contract.