The Carolina Panthers officially announced their new five-year extension with ILB Luke Kuechly.
“Luke is one of the best young players in the NFL and I’m very excited that the extension is done,” general manager Dave Gettleman said. “Like Cam Newton’s extension, this contract allows us to do the long-term planning and have the fixed cost that we need to continue to build the best team possible.”
“Luke is a special player and has been a big reason why we’ve had success on defense,” head coach Ron Rivera said. “He has the skillset you want in a middle linebacker – a great first step, the ability to play downhill and drop into coverage – and he has great command of our defense and what we want to do schematically. He’s a perfect fit for us and I’m excited we got the deal done.”
This extension makes Kuechly the highest paid inside linebacker in the history of the NFL, averaging $12.4 million per year
The contract comes shortly after Adam Schefter reported that an agreement between Kuechly and the Panthers would come within the next 24 hours.
Last we heard, talks between the parties were heating up, and with the season opener just a few days away, there’s incentive for them to get a deal done now.
It will be interesting to see if Kuechly can surpass the four-year, $43 million extension Bobby Wagner received from the Seahawks this summer.
Kuechly, 24, already has a Defensive Player of the Year award and is clearly in the discussion for being the best inside linebacker in the league.
He is entering the final year of his four-year, $12.58 million rookie contract and stands to make a base salary of $2,105,265 for the 2015 season.
The Panthers elected to pick up his fifth-year option, which will run them $11.1 million fully guaranteed for the 2016 season.
In 2014, Kuechly recorded 153 tackles, three sacks, one interception, a forced fumble, a recovery and 11 pass defenses for the Panthers. Pro Football Focus has him rated as the N0. 1 inside linebacker out of 60 qualifying players.