Panthers sign LB Thomas Davis to 2-year contract extension

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) Thomas Davis plans to end his career right where it began - with the Carolina Panthers.

The 32-year-old linebacker signed a two-year contract extension Monday, which keeps him with the team through 2017.

Financial terms were not released.

''Signing this extension is something I've wanted to do all along, and it just confirms that I now get to officially end my career as a Carolina Panther, and that means the world to me,'' Davis said in a release Monday.

''I'm extremely excited about being a part of this defense and I'm looking forward to doing my part to make sure that we become the No. 1 defense in the league.''

The Panthers also announced Monday they've signed cornerback Chris Houston to a one-year contract.

Davis was selected with the 14th overall pick in the 2005 draft. He's spent his entire career in Carolina, overcoming three torn ACLs to the same knee to return and play at a high level.

Davis has posted three straight 100-tackle seasons, including 129 in 2014. Davis also had 2 1/2 sacks, two forced fumbles, one fumble recovery and six passes defensed last year as the Panthers became the first team to win the NFC South in consecutive seasons.

The former Georgia star is the second-leading tackler in franchise history with 831, and has played in 117 regular-season games and started 99, both team records for a linebacker.

Although the Panthers drafted Shaq Thompson from Washington in the first round as the heir apparent at outside linebacker, the team still feels Davis has plenty to offer.

''Thomas has been and continues to be an integral part of our team on the field and off the field,'' general manager Dave Gettleman said in the same release. ''His leadership is valuable and he is still playing at a high level. We're thrilled we could get this done. He's a lynchpin in our defense and we're excited that he's going to have the ability to retire as a Panther.''

Davis was honored this past season as the 2014 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year, which recognizes a player's community service as well as his playing excellence.

''This shows the commitment we've made to Thomas and the commitment he's made to us,'' coach Ron Rivera said in the release. ''He's been a great part of our success and now he has the opportunity to retire as a Panther. He's a unique individual, and there really is only one Thomas Davis.''

Repeated torn right ACLs in 2009, 2010 and 2011 kept Davis out of the majority of those seasons.

Since then, he has averaged 132 tackles per season over the past three years, including a career-high 151 in 2013, when he also set or tied career highs in sacks (four), interceptions (two) and passes defensed (eight).

Davis has been part of a defense that has finished in the top 10 in each of the past three seasons.

The deal comes less than two weeks after Cam Newton received a $103 million extension from the team.

Gettleman is now expected to turn his attention to getting a long-term deal for linebacker Luke Kuechly, the 2013 NFL Defensive Player of the Year.

The 5-foot-11, 180-pound Houston gives the Panthers more veteran experience at cornerback. He has played in 99 regular-season games with 91 starts with the Falcons (2007-09) and Lions (2010-13).

Houston has 370 tackles, 13 interceptions, including three returned for touchdowns, 80 passes defensed, four forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries. He was selected by the Falcons in the second round of the 2007 draft.

The Panthers also waived defensive back Jocquel Skinner in a corresponding move.

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AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

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