Top pick Newton signs $22M deal, reports to Panthers camp

SPARTANBURG, S.C. -- No. 1 overall draft pick Cam Newton has signed with the Carolina Panthers and arrived at training camp.

The team announced Friday night that the quarterback had signed a deal and was attending team meetings. The Panthers also said on Twitter that the quarterback "had officially signed on the dotted line."

Bus Cook, Newton's agent, told The Associated Press via a text message Friday night that the deal was for four years and "$22 million-plus."

Newton was seen Friday night driving into the back lot of the Richardson Physical Activities Building and entering the offices that serve as team headquarters for the Panthers' training camp at Wofford College..

Panthers coach Ron Rivera had said earlier Friday that he expected the former Auburn quarterback to be at Wofford when the team held its first practice session Saturday. Also earlier Friday, general manager Marty Hurney said the sides were making good progress on an agreement.

The Heisman Trophy winner might be the biggest financial casualty of the NFL lockout.

The new collective bargaining agreement sets a rookie wage system for first-year pros. Last year's No. 1 draft pick, Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford, signed a six-year, $78 million contract with the St. Louis Rams last summer. Newton would have been in for a likely even better payday if not for the lockout.

At Auburn, Newton took snaps out of the shotgun in a spread offense where he had opportunities to run and pass for big yardage. He threw for 30 touchdowns and rushed for 20 more in the Tigers' 14-0 title-winning season.

Newton will have to move under center and scramble less in offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski's Panthers scheme.

"I don't think it's going to be a problem for me. I think it's just timing more than anything," Newton said last May. "Just repetition as far as me knowing what I have to do, knowing the assignment, the alignment and what everybody's doing on that particular play."

Newton has had Chudzinski's playbook since April 29, when a judge temporarily lifted the lockout. Panthers wide receiver Steve Smith said he was impressed with Newton's skills he saw during private workouts the two have had before labor peace was reached.

Another Panthers rookie from Auburn, receiver Darvin Adams, called Newton a "natural-born leader."

Newton will be looked at to bring stability to a position where the Panthers struggled greatly last season. Carolina was last in several NFL categories and finished with the fewest points in team history.

Rivera said Newton would battle for the starting job with the quarterbacks in camp, last year's starter Jimmy Clausen and Tony Pike. Hurney didn't rule out bringing in a veteran quarterback to add depth during camp.

Newton was the focus of an NCAA investigation. The governing body ruled that his father, Cecil, had sought money from Mississippi State when Cam Newton was being recruited out of junior college. The quarterback signed with Auburn and was deemed eligible after a one-day suspension when the NCAA's reinstatement staff found he didn't know about the pay-for-play scheme. He was cleared to play in the Southeastern Conference and BCS national championship games.

Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press

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