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The Carolina Panthers continued their surprising spending spree Friday when they signed center Ryan Kalil to a six-year contract worth $49 million that will make him the highest-paid center in the NFL, according to team and league sources.
Kalil was scheduled to make $10.1 million in 2011 as the team's designated franchise player and signed a five-year extension through 2016 that was restructured to lower his salary-cap number this year, sources said.
The deal includes $28 million in guaranteed money, sources told ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter. Kalil will make $30.75 million in the first three years, or an average of $10.25 million, even though the salary cap number will be lower than that.
Nick Mangold of the Jets became the league's highest-paid center last August when he signed an extension that was valued at $54.075 million over seven years for an average of $7.725 million a season. Kalil's deal would have to average around $8 million a year to top Mangold's contract.
Kalil signed the contract before Friday night's kickoff in Miami and the Panthers were expected to announce the deal, sources said.
After a flurry of free agent and trade activity that surprised many around the league, Panthers general manager Marty Hurney had identified Kalil's long-term deal as his next priroity.
The Panthers transactions since the NFL lockout include re-signing its own pending free agents such as defensive end Charles Johnson (six-years, $72 million), running back DeAngelo Williams (five years, $43 million), linebackers Jon Beason (five years, $51.6 million), James Anderson (five years, $22 million) and Thomas Davis (five years, $12 million).
The Panthers also signed kicker Olindo Mare to a four-year, $12-million contract and added three tight ends in Greg Olsen (trade), Jeremy Shockey (free agent) and Ben Hartstock (free agent), among their other numerous transactions. The Panthers also made quarterback Cam Newton the No. 1 pick in the NFL draft and signed him to a guaranteed $22.5 million contract over five years.
Chris Mortensen is an ESPN senior NFL analyst. ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter contributed to this report.