CHARLOTTE - A process that sometimes took months in the past wrapped up in less than two weeks when all seven of the Panthers' selections in the 2012 NFL Draft signed their rookie contracts.
Headed by linebacker Luke Kuechly - the team's first-round pick – the players signed on the dotted line prior to taking to the practice field for the team's three-day rookie minicamp that is set to begin Friday. The rookies weren't required to sign their contracts in order to participate in the camp.
The Panthers also signed guard Amini Silatolu (second round), defensive end Frank Alexander (fourth round), wide receiver Joe Adams (fourth round), cornerback Josh Norman (fifth round), punter Brad Nortman (sixth round) and safety D.J. Campbell (seventh round).
"We are thrilled to have our entire draft class under contract," Panthers general manager Marty Hurney said. "We look forward to watching these young men come in and compete starting this weekend."
The Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) reached last July included fixed compensation figures for drafted rookies. Previous CBAs had no such provision, leading to protracted contracted negotiations with some rookies.
As the CBA stipulates, all the rookies signed four-year contracts. The Panthers will have the option of extending the rookie contract of Kuechly to a fifth season after he completes his third season, as allowed by the CBA in regards to first-round draft picks.
The rookie wage scale went into effect before last season but did so with little fanfare, lost in the flurry of activity when free agency and training camp opened at nearly the same time because of the tight schedule created by a prolonged work stoppage.
The Panthers' 12 rookie free agents also have signed, making it necessary to release a player - linebacker Phillip Dillard - to get the team down to the roster limit of 90.