During the NFL owners meeting Carolina Panthers’ general manger Dave Gettleman said about exercising the fifth-year option on Luke Kuechly, “I'd have to have brain damage not to,” according to ESPN’s David Netwon. He was entering the final season of his rookie contract but will be under contract through 2016 when the option is picked up.
Since being drafted in 2012 with the ninth overall pick by the Panthers, Kuechly has been one of the best middle linebackers in the NFL. He has had a career full of awards from Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2012, Defensive Player of the Year in 2013 and two Pro Bowl appearances (2013, 2014). He has finished in the Top 5 in total tackles every season he has been in the NFL and led the league in the category in 2012 and 2014.
Entering this offseason, the focus for the Panthers’ front office was not only bringing in players to improve this team but keep the players that have helped them win back to back division titles. Some of the top players on this roster were entering the final year of their contracts.
The team has already been able to work out a contract extension with tight end Greg Olsen and exercising the option on Kuechly will give them some more time to work out a long term deal.
While most of the talk will be centered on quarterback Cam Newton, the Panthers will also need to try and work out an extension with top cornerback Josh Norman who will also be a free agent after this season. It would make sense that the team would hope to work out deals sooner rather than later as the price tag would almost certainly go up if both players hit the open market.