On Thursday, the Carolina Panthers agreed on an extension with linebacker Luke Kuechly. The extension, which will extend his contract for an extra 5 years, is believed to be worth a total of $65 million. The deal makes the Panther the highest payed middle linebacker in the NFL.
The deal is expected to be signed within the next 24-hours, sources tell ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
Since coming into the league in 2012, Kuechly has an NFL-high 473 tackles. He’s one of only three total players to win NFL Defensive Player of the Year honors within his first two seasons in the league. In 2012, he would also win the NFL Defensive Rookie of the year.
Kuechly’s base salary of over $12 million tops the Seattle Seahawks’ Bobby Wagner, who received a 4-year extension worth $10.75 million back in August.
Kuechly’s teammate Thomas Davis had some praise for his partner-in-crime, saying “To me, he deserves to be the highest-paid defensive player in the NFL for what he’s capable of doing and what he has done.”
Carolina head coach Ron Rivera also delivered some praise for the 24-year old, calling him one of the top two or three best linebackers in the NFL.
“The one thing he’s done in all honesty that has surprised me is his complete command of what we do,” he said. “When you find a guy like that, that’s pretty special, and you want to keep him around.”
Kuechly declined any comment about any impending deal in the open locker room session.
Kuechly becomes the third Carolina Panther to sign a large extension this offseason. Previously, Cam Newton ($103.8M/5-year) and Greg Olsen ($22.5M/3-year) signed extensions with the team.
It’s been a big offseason for linebackers with both DeAndre Levy and Lavonte David signing long-term extensions as well.