Linebacker Luke Kuechly was one of the surefire candidates to have his fifth-year option picked up. That was confirmed today, as the Panthers announced that they have picked up the one-year, $11.1MM contract. Teams have until May 3rd to exercise the fifth-year options on 2012 first-rounders.
The 24-year-old has established himself as one of the best defenders in the game since entering the league in 2012. The Boston College product has started all 48 games during his three-year career, averaging season totals of 98 tackles, two sacks, two interceptions and nine passes defended. The former ninth-overall pick has received his fair share of accolades, winning the 2013 Defensive Player of the Year and the 2012 Defensive Rookie of the Year. He’s also been named to a pair of Pro Bowls and All-Pro teams.
Kuechly continued his dominance in 2014, setting career-highs in sacks (three) and passes defended (12). Pro Football Focus advanced metrics (subscription required) were fond of his performance, ranking him as the best inside linebacker in the NFL. Those same numbers reflected his importance to the Panthers, as his score nearly doubled that of the team’s second-highest rated defender (linebacker Thomas Davis).
Last month, general manager Dave Gettleman confirmed that the Panthers would be picking up the linebacker’s option, saying he’d “have to be brain-dead not to.”