Charlotte, NC (SportsNetwork.com) - The Carolina Panthers have exercised the fifth-year option on the contract of star linebacker Luke Kuechly.

The two-time Pro Bowl pick is now under contract through the 2016 season.

Kuechly has led the NFL in tackles in two of his three seasons. He was voted the NFL's top defensive rookie in 2012 and earned the league's top defensive player award in 2013.

The Panthers selected the Boston College product with the ninth overall pick of the 2012 NFL Draft. He has 473 tackles, six sacks and seven interceptions in 48 games, all starts, in his NFL career.