Contract Forecast: Luke Kuechly

Contract Forecast: Luke Kuechly
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Contract Forecast: Luke Kuechly

The Panthers made their big splash early this summer, signing franchise QB Cam Newton to a 5 year $103.8 million extension through the 2020 season. The next player in Carolina due for a payday is likely the captain of the defense in inside linebacker Luke Kuechly. Kuechly's been a consumate professional since the day he was taken #9 overall back in 2012, and his leadership abilities and production on the field has been second to none.

At just 24 years old, Kuechly is much younger than the majority of extension candidates that come through our system, so the chance for a blockbuster long-term extension here is likely. We'll compare statistical production over the past few seasons to a group of other ILBs who signed extensions at a similar age with their respective teams to produce a value forecast for what his forthcoming contract might look like.

Comparable Linebackers
To generate a prediction the Spotrac team determined that the following linebackers were viable targets to use in comparing with Kuechly. The key was to locate players with similar numbers, who signed their second contract around the age of 24.. To determine a more likely starting point for our numbers, we'll perform a linear regression of each contract listed below.
Player Length Value Avg. Salary Guaranteed Age When Signed
Brian Cushing  6 $52,500,000 $8,750,000 $21,000,000 27
Sean Lee 6 $42,000,000 $7,000,000 $16,130,000 26
Lawrence Timmons 5 $47,795,750 $9,559,150 $11,000,000 25
Navorro Bowman 5 $45,250,000 $9,050,000 $11,000,000 24
Averages 5.5 $46,886,438 $8,589,788 $14,782,500 25.5
We'll adjust their contracts up to reflect each as if it were signed at the age of 24 to provide a better scope for our base prediction.

Related:  View the list of Top Average Inside Linebackers in the NFL
Length Value Avg. Salary (slope)
6 $50,304,470 $8,384,123

Statistical Comparisons
Now we'll assess Wagner statistically against our variable linebackers, taking a look at Games Played, Sacks per Season, Tackles per Season, and Stops per Season.
Player G/YR INT/G Catch % Sacks/G TKL/G Stops/G
Brian Cushing (2012-13, HOU) 6 .083 92.3 .125 4.83 5.16
Sean Lee  (2012-13, DAL) 8.5 .29 76.75 0 6.11 3.94
Lawrence Timmons  (2009-10, PIT) 15 .0625 72.85 .2 6.2 3.8
Navorro Bowman  (2010-11, SF) 16 0 71.8 .13 7.1 4.3
AVERAGES 13 .10 78.4 .11 6.22 3.64
Luke Kuechly  (2013-14, CAR) 16 .3125 75 .156 6.34 4.4
% Change 37.63% 187% 4.37% 71.7% 1.18% 3.68%
Average PRIME PErcentage: 50.93%
Kuechly is clearly ahead of our variable averages across the board, most notably due to his durability, and the opportunities he's given to have a crack at the quarterback in the Panthers defensive structure. We'll apply his prime percentages into our original base contract value to determine his current value.

Length of the Contract
Inside linebackers have been garnering longer contracts than most positions over the past few seasons, and at just 24 years of age, Kuechly should follow suit here. We'll assess this forecast as a 6 year contract, including 5 years added on to his $11.058 million 5th year option for 2016.

Value of the Contract
Our base contract outputted a value just north of $50 million over 6 years, or $8.3M per season, 5th most among active inside linebackers. When factoring in his impressive prime percentages based on statistical production this figure increases to a figure he's likely much more pleased with.

Utilizing our Median Prime Percentage (21.00%), we're forecasting Kuechly as the 2nd highest average paid ILB:
6 years, $60,868,750 | $10,144,790 per year | $24,350,000 guaranteed
Utilizing our Average Prime Percentage (50.93%), we're forecasting Kuechly as the 2nd highest average paid ILB:
6 years, $76,000,000 | $12,666,666 per year | $30,400,000 guaranteed

We'll split the difference to offer the best-value forecast for Kuechly's next contract:

Spotrac's Prediction: 6 years, $69,000,000
Average annual salary $11,500,000, estimated $27,500,000 guaranteed

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