Panthers' extension elevates Gamble among highest paid at cornerback
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Chris Gamble could have been one of the most coveted free agent cornerbacks in the NFL this offseason.
But Gamble didn't want the uncertainty, and the Carolina Panthers rewarded him on Friday with a lucrative deal that will keep him in Charlotte through the 2014 season.
In the middle of perhaps his best season, Gamble signed a six-year contract extension that agent Carl Poston said makes him one of the five top-paid cornerbacks in the league. That would make it worth more than $50 million.
"I wanted to be in Carolina. I didn't want to be with any other team," Gamble said. "I like the organization, the coaching staff, the fans, my teammates and I just wanted to get it out of the way."
The Panthers selected Gamble in the first round of the 2004 draft and he immediately became a starter. He has 19 interceptions, second in team history.
This season, the 25-year-old Gamble has two interceptions and a team-leading 17 passes defended. In the past several weeks, opposing teams have seemingly avoided throwing Gamble's way. The Panthers enter Sunday's game at Green Bay with the ninth-rated pass defense in the NFL.
"Chris is an extremely talented player and is playing at a high level," general manager Marty Hurney said. "He started his career with us and this extension is another step toward the possibility of his finishing his career as a Panther."
Gamble's signing is the first of several hurdles the Panthers face with key players. Defensive end Julius Peppers and left tackle Jordan Gross are also slated to become free agents at the end of the season.
Fitting those players under the salary cap led to speculation the Panthers might not be able to keep Gamble once he got on the open market, especially with nickel back Richard Marshall considered to be of starting caliber. But Gamble said he had no interest in playing for another team.
"Just knowing that I'll be in Carolina is very important," Gamble said. "I don't have to worry about looking for another team to approach me or anything like that. I can just stay focused knowing I'm going to be a Carolina Panther for seven more years. It's just very exciting."
Poston said he advised Gamble on the advantages of testing free agency, but said Gamble pushed for him to reach a deal with the Panthers. Poston said when the Panthers agreed to a deal that "reflects Chris being one of the top corners in the game today," he recommended Gamble re-sign.
"I think part of my job is to give the pros and cons to my client," Poston said. "So we looked at that and we looked at whether he wanted to explore the market or stay here. He made it very clear he wanted to stay here. I thought that was a good decision and we moved in that direction. That's what helped get it done."
Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press