With a pair of 2012 second-round linebackers getting new contracts in recent weeks, the first linebacker taken in round one of the 2012 draft could be next.
Via Jonathan Jones of the Charlotte Observer, talks between the Panthers and linebacker Luke Kuechly are “heating up.”
At last check, the odds of getting a deal done before the start of the regular season were deemed to be 50-50. So progress apparently between the Panthers and the 2012 NFL defensive rookie of the year and 2013 NFL defensive player of the year apparently has been made.
Panthers G.M. Dave Gettleman has a policy of not negotiating contracts during the regular season. So they have three weeks and five days to get something done.
The Panthers waited until quarterback Cam Newton played four full seasons before signing him to a long-term deal. And it so it had seemed that the Panthers would do the same thing with Kuechly.
But Kuechly plays a position with a greater risk of serious injury, making it more important to the player to shift the injury risk back to the team as soon as possible. With Seahawks linebacker Bobby Wagner (pick No. 47 in 2012) and Buccaneers linebacker Lavonte David (pick No. 48 in 2012) shifting the injury risk back to the team after only three years, Kuechly surely would like to do the same — even though his first-round status gives the Panthers two more years before he hits the market, via the fifth-year option.
Of course, locking Kuechly up with two years left on his deal likely will be cheaper than doing it with one year left, with Kuechly likely taking less now than he’d want a year from now, if he gets through a fourth NFL season without the kind of injury that permanently derails or limits a career.