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Standout linebacker Luke Kuechly close to 'mega-deal' with Panthers

The Carolina Panthers and linebacker Luke Kuechly are expected to agree to a new "mega-deal" within the next 24 hours, sources tell ESPN's Adam Schefter.

Kuechly will join linebackers Bobby Wagner, Lavonte David and DeAndre Levy to get big new deals this summer.

Kuechly is in line to be the highest-paid middle linebacker in the NFL. He was the NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 2013 and has made the Pro Bowl the past two seasons. No player has had more tackles since Kuechly entered the league in 2012.

Kuechly also has been adamant that his focus is on preparing for the season, not the contract.

The Panthers exercised the fifth-year option on Kuechly's rookie contract earlier this year, meaning he's under contract through the 2016 season.

"To me, he deserves to be the highest-paid defensive player in the NFL for what he's capable of doing and what he has done," Panthers outside linebacker Thomas Davis said.

Carolina coach Ron Rivera said he's not aware that a deal has been finalized, but said Kuechly is one of the top two or three best linebackers in the NFL.

"The one thing he's in all honesty that has surprised me is his complete command of what we do," he said. "When you find a guy like that, that's pretty special and you want to keep him around."

Information from ESPN Panthers reporter David Newton was used in this report.

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Panthers, Kuechly close to megadeal
Panthers, Kuechly close to megadeal
Chris Mortensen discusses the five-year deal that linebacker Luke Kuechly is expecting to sign with the Carolina Panthers.

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