Staring down the prospect of losing yet another one of their defensive cornerstones, the Carolina Panthers acted Monday by signing star defensive tackle Kawann Short to a five-year deal, according to the team’s official site.

NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported that the pact is worth $80.5 million with $35 million guaranteed, and that Short gets $40 million over his first two years. The contract averages $16 million per season, which puts Short in the neighborhood of Bills defensive tackle Marcell Dareus, and just behind the gargantuan salaries of Ndamukong Suh and Fletcher Cox. However, as contract site Spotrac points out, Short’s first two years are better than almost any defensive player in football, save for Von Miller and Olivier Vernon.

Short, 28, was hit with the franchise tag back in February. It’s unclear whether he would have reported to training camp this summer without a new deal. Panthers general manager Dave Gettleman was under the spotlight this offseason after rescinding the franchise tag to cornerback Josh Norman a year ago. Norman went on to play for the Washington Redskins and Carolina’s young secondary took a massive step backwards.

All along, though, Gettleman made it clear that Short was more valuable. Long a believer that a team is built through the “hog mollies” up front and on the defensive line, Gettleman lauded the way his top-flight tackles and ends can make his offensive line better.

“KK has been very important to what we’ve been able to accomplish on defense,” Gettleman told the team’s official website Monday. “In 2013, when we drafted KK, I thought he was the best pass-rushing defensive tackle in the draft, and he’s been able to develop into one of the top young defensive tackles in the NFL. Off the field, KK is a top-notch young man and great representative of our team. I’m absolutely thrilled that we were able to get this deal done.”

Added coach Ron Rivera: “KK consistently affects the quarterback and is strong against the run. The mismatches he creates for us on defense force opponents to be aware of him at all times and give us an edge along the defensive line. He’s a great player, but also a quality young man who has the respect of his teammates in the locker room. He’s everything we’re looking for in a Panther.” The news had to be encouraging for Panthers fans. Allowing Short, who has yet to miss a game in his NFL career and who logged 17 sacks over the last two seasons as an interior rusher, to hit the open market would have been a disaster.

While Gettleman has drawn praise for the way he’s recrafted the once-woebegone Panthers roster, he had drawn the ire of some fans for his hard-line stance on contracts. He often notes that Carolina cannot afford to be shopping “at Tiffany’s” and that it needs to be doing more work at the dollar store.

Monday’s efforts certainly signal that the Tiffany’s era could be on the horizon.

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