In a move that was expected, the Carolina Panthers announce that the team had picked up the fifth-year option on Star Lotulelei's rookie contract. The starting defensive tackle is now under contract through the 2017 season.
Lotulelei was selected with the 13th overall pick during the 2013 NFL Draft and was the first player Dave Gettleman selected as general manager for the Panthers. He had an immediate impact and quickly became the starting defensive tackle for this defense, starting 16 games as a rookie. He finished with 42 tackles and three sacks, which are career highs.
The past two seasons haven't gone as smoothly as he has missed time due to injuries however is still an excellent run-stuffing defensive tackle. The combination of Lotulelei and Kawann Short gives this defense one of the top starting tackle tandems in the league.
Even though Lotulelei is under contract through 2017, the front office may not wait to try and work out a long-term deal with him. In year's past the Panthers have picked up these options on players, like Luke Kuechly, and were able to work out extensions a few months later.
These negotiations could end up being on a similar timeline as the team has over $30 million in cap space after rescinding the franchise tag of Josh Norman last week. They have the flexibility now to offer Lotulelei a raise and keep him under contract for the foreseeable future.