While reiterating that Cam Newton remains the Panthers' franchise quarterback, general manager Dave Gettleman said the team will use the fifth-year club option to keep Newton under contract through at least 2015.

Newton, the first No. 1 pick to sign under the new collective bargaining agreement, agreed to a four-year contract worth a guaranteed $22 million in 2011.

Under the new CBA, teams control the fifth year for first-round picks at a controlled price. For the top 10 picks, the fifth-year salary is the average of the top 10 players at their position.

Teams have until May 3 to exercise the fifth-year option.

"We're in conversations on that now," Gettleman said Tuesday at the NFL owners meetings.

Asked if he expected to use the option on Newton, Gettleman said: "The short answer is yes. That's a fair statement."

Gettleman indicated the moves the Panthers are making now -- or those they're not making -- are with future salary caps in mind.

In addition to locking up Newton with a long-term deal, the Panthers also have to create space to keep middle linebacker Luke Kuechly and defensive tackles Star Lotulelei and Kawann Short with the team.

"The bottom line is, when we draft and the coaches develop the player and he's a four- or five-year guy, we don’t want to look at each other and say, ‘I can’t believe we can’t sign this guy," Gettleman said. "It’s about Cam, it’s about Luke, it’s about the two young defensive tackles if they keep developing. It’s about any of them."

Gettleman also addressed several other key personnel topics:

--He was noncommittal about the future of free safety Charles Godfrey, who has a $7.1 million cap figure and is coming off Achilles surgery. Gettleman said Godfrey first has to get healthy and is part of the team's evaluation process.