Thompson signs 4-year extension

Scott Hamilton

The Carolina Panthers ended a week of change and uncertainty by fostering some stability on defense.

Carolina and linebacker Shaq Thompson agreed to a four-year extension that will keep him with the team through the 2023 season. His agent, Doug Hendrickson, told ESPN the agreement is worth $54.2 million dollars -- $28 million of which is guaranteed – along with a $16 million signing bonus.

Thompson, who the Panthers drafted out of Washington with the 25th overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft, has a career-high 93 tackles and three sacks in 12 games this season. During his five seasons, Thompson has 394 tackles, 9.5 sacks, and two fumble recoveries (one of which he returned for a touchdown). He has also defended 13 passes.

At 6-foot, 230-pounds – and having played multiple positions on both side of the football while in college – Thompson provides the Panthers with plenty of flexibility as they continue to transition from a 4-3 defense to a 3-4 system.

“Shaq is our type of person and our type of player,” Carolina general manager Marty Hurney said. “He’s proven that he can play linebacker at a very high level, and he’s got all the traits you want. He’s smart, he’s physical, he can run and he’s very versatile. He fits the blueprint for what we want at that position.”

Thompson securing his future in Carolina comes only days after the team parted ways with coach Ron Rivera after nearly nine seasons. The Panthers are 5-7 heading and have lost four straight heading into Sunday's game at Atlanta. Secondary coach Perry Fewell has been named interim coach.

However, the extension indicates Thompson won't be going anywhere. And it positions him among the highest-paid linebackers in the league.

Thompson, 25, played on his rookie deal through last season, averaging $2.2 million a year. Carolina picked up a fifth-year option in 2019 that raised his salary to $9.2 million and Thompson was to become an unrestricted free agent after next season.

Instead he breaks through the $10 million threshold with a new deal that increases his annual salary to $13.55 million.

“It means everything,” Thompson told "What this organization has done for me and my family, it’s just tremendous. Now it’s time to go to Atlanta and go get this game."

According to, a site that tracks NFL player contracts, there were 19 linebackers making at least $10 million going into this season – with seven making $15 million or more.

Khalil Mack of the Chicago Bears tops the list with an average salary of $23.5 million, followed by Denver’s Von Miller ($19.1 million) and Seattle’s Bobby Wagner ($18 million).

Atlanta’s Deion Jones, at $14.25 million a year, is seventh on the list and is the NFC South’s highest-paid linebacker in terms of annual salary.

Carolina Panthers teammate Luke Kuechley, 28, is 12th among NFL linebackers, making $12.4 million a year. His contract runs through the 2021 season.