The man who anchors the Carolina Panthers’ offensive line is now anchored in Charlotte for what will likely be the rest of his career.
All-Pro center Ryan Kalil signed a two-year contract extension Monday that will keep him with the Panthers through the 2018 season.
Kalil, who was set to be an unrestricted free agent next offseason, signed a deal reportedly worth $16.75 million.
“I think it’s something that a lot of guys start to think about toward the end of their career—where they’re going to finish—and for this organization to give me this opportunity to finish my career here means the world to me,” Kalil, 31, said on a teleconference with reporters Monday afternoon. “I couldn’t imagine finishing my career in a better place than this franchise.
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“A lot of guys dream of that and wanting to get in the double-digits (in years) in a career and stay in one place and to be apart of a great place like the Panthers.”
A three-time All-Pro, including a first-team nod in 2015, Kalil has been the leader of Carolina’s offensive line since left tackle Jordan Gross retired following the 2013 season.
Kalil’s play last season helped quarterback Cam Newton win the league’s MVP award and helped Carolina finish No. 1 in scoring offense in the NFL.
“Ryan is still playing at an extremely high level and was very deservedly an All-Pro again in 2015,” general manager Dave Gettleman said in a statement. “The other part of this is that Ryan is a great leader. In 2014, he was instrumental in keeping that offensive line group together. That group had a lot of young players and there were moving parts because of injuries, but Ryan helped them maintain their confidence and that was a big part of us winning five of our last six games.
“On and off the field, Ryan is a pro’s pro and we’re all very excited about this.”
Kalil’s leadership role has long been one of leading by example rather than by voice. He went out of character in 2012, though, when he bought an advertisement in the Observer proclaiming the Panthers would win that season’s Super Bowl.
Carolina went 7-9, but Kalil has since expressed no regret for the ad.
“I think the leadership I’ve always sort of embraced or gravitated towards are the guys who lead by example. The vocal stuff’s not easy,” said Kalil, who said he envies guys like linebacker Thomas Davis who are vocal.
“I try to lead by example and showing guys how to be consistent, how to fight through injuries, how to be accountable. Hopefully, I’ve done a good job of that and that’s something I think a lot about.”
Selected in the second round of the 2007 draft out of Southern California, Kalil has started in 115 career games. That’s second-most for a Carolina offensive linemen behind his longtime friend Gross (167).
He went to the Pro Bowl in three straight seasons before breaking his foot in 2012. He rebounded to receive Pro Bowl nominations in 2013 and 2015.
In 2011, the Panthers made Kalil the highest-paid center in NFL history with a six-year deal worth $49.1 million.
He was set to count $10.3 million against this year’s cap, and this extension will likely relieve some of that cap hit while adding two more years onto his tenure in Carolina.
“I’m definitely closer to the end than the beginning,” Kalil said, “but I feel like I’ve got some good football left in me and want to do everything I can and give every ounce of football I have left to this franchise that’s been great to me and my family and try to find a way to sustain success.”