Inside the Panthers

Panthers exercise fifth-year option on DT Star Lotulelei

Carolina Panthers defensive tackle Star Lotulelei slaps hands with fans as he walks to practice on Wednesday, January 27, 2016.
Carolina Panthers defensive tackle Star Lotulelei slaps hands with fans as he walks to practice on Wednesday, January 27, 2016. jsiner@charlotteobserver.com

The Panthers have one of their defensive tackles under contract for the next two years, and now can turn their attention to getting their other one locked up for the long term.

The Panthers have exercised their fifth-year option on Star Lotulelei, the team’s first-round draft pick in 2013. Lotulelei, the former Utah standout, will make more than $6 million in 2017 under the option.

Lotulelei was taken one round before the Panthers selected defensive tackle Kawann Short, who made the Pro Bowl last season after finishing with the most sacks (11) by a defensive tackle in team history.

Because Short is a second-round pick, the Panthers do not have a fifth-year option on him. With cornerback Josh Norman’s hasty departure to Washington, the Panthers will make a Short extension a priority.

Lotulelei has seen his sack total decrease by one every season, from three as a rookie to a career-low one in 2015. But Panthers general manager Dave Gettleman said last month he’s been pleased with Lotulelei’s play.

“He’s done everything we wanted. Star has not disappointed by any stretch of the imagination and he’s getting better,” Gettleman said at the NFL annual meetings. “He’s earned this. I’m excited we’re going to have him around for two more years.”

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