Kuechly signs mega-deal

The Carolina Panthers signed linebacker Luke Kuechly to a five-year, $62 million contract extension Thursday, making him the highest paid middle linebacker in the NFL.

Kuechly is now under contract with the Panthers through the 2021 season.

“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.”

Since being drafted by Carolina with the ninth overall selection in the 2012 NFL Draft, Kuechly leads the NFL with 473 tackles (based on press box statistics), according to a spokesperson for the Panthers. Kuechly is one of three players to win NFL Defensive Player of the Year in his first two seasons, joining Lawrence Taylor and J.J. Watt.

“Luke is a special player and has been a big reason why we’ve had success on defense,” head coach Ron Rivera. “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.”