CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — The Carolina Panthers have agreed to terms with first-round linebacker Luke Kuechly and their other six draft picks on the eve of their rookie minicamp, a person familiar with the situation said.
The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the deals have not been announced.
All seven draft picks agreed to four-year contracts.
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Kuechly will get $12.58 million over four years and, like Cam Newton a year ago, all of that money is guaranteed. The Panthers have an option for a fifth year in Kuechly’s deal because he’s the ninth overall pick.
In past years it’s taken most NFL teams until late July to get rookies under contract but the new collective bargaining agreement has made it much easier to sign rookies since they’re all slotted.
The Panthers open a three-day minicamp on Friday.
Along with Kuechly, the Panthers also agreed to terms with guard Amini Salotolu from Midwestern State (40th overall), defensive end Frank Alexander from Oklahoma (103rd overall), punt returner Joe Adams (104th overall), cornerback Josh Norman from Coastal Carolina (143rd overall), punter Brad Nortman (207th overall) and safety D.J. Campbell (216th overall).
In addition, the Panthers have brought in 32 players for a three-day tryout, including quarterbacks Dalton Bell from West Texas A&M and Jarrett Brown from West Virginia.
The Panthers’ three-day camp will feature only rookies and first-year players, which means stars like Newton and Steve Smith will not be on hand for this weekend’s activities.
However, the Panthers will get their first look at Kuechly and it will be interesting to see where he lines up.
Carolina wasted no time selecting Kuechly but coach Ron Rivera wouldn’t say where he plans to play him, saying only that his versatility and ability to play all three linebacker positions is one of the main reasons they chose the two-time All-America selection from Boston College.
“We’re going to look at it, we really are, and just see how it all meshes,” Rivera said. “This is one of those picks where it makes your group better and your unit better. The reason we drafted the kid is he has tremendous versatility.
“Whether he’s playing the Sam, the Mike or the Will for us, this guy has an opportunity to make an impact for us. We’re going to put the best football players on the field and we’re going to play them.”
The Panthers signed all three starting linebackers to five-year contracts last summer, but middle linebacker Jon Beason ruptured his Achilles in the season opener and weakside linebacker Thomas Davis tore a knee ligament in Week 2 for the third time in three seasons. Meanwhile, strong side linebacker James Anderson emerged with a breakout season, leading the team in tackles.
Given Davis’ injury history and uncertain status heading into the season it would seem weak side linebacker would be the obvious spot.
But if the Panthers have a spot picked out for Kuechly they haven’t informed him.
“They said just be ready to pick up the playbook and be ready to play all three positions,” Kuechly said after being drafted.