In a move that was bound to happen within the next two weeks, the Carolina Panthers exercised middle linebacker Luke Kuechly’s fifth-year option of his rookie deal on Saturday.
Kuechly, entering his fourth year in the NFL, will be paid a guaranteed salary of $11.1 million in 2016 with the option.
Panthers general manager Dave Gettleman has said before he would have to “have brain damage not to” exercise the option on Kuechly. The team had until May 3 to do so.
Kuechly won Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2012 and then followed it up with being named the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year in 2013. He’s led the NFL in tackles in two of his three seasons and has been named to the All Pro first team in each of the past two seasons.