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Report: Ron Rivera, Panthers will start contract talks

On the heels of a surprising 12-4 season, the Panthers are going to make sure Riverboat Ron stays in Carolina.

The team has reached out to coach Ron Rivera to begin contract extension negotiations, The Charlotte Observer reported Sunday, per a league source. 

Rivera's contract expires following the 2014 season, so the Panthers want to ensure the coach won't be in a lame-duck year. Rex Ryan had similar qualms with his deal set to terminate after next season as well, and the Jets responded with a long-term contract extension

Just three months ago, Rivera was on the hot seat after the Panthers started the season 1-3. In fact, the team began background checks and one candidate knew of the Panthers' interest, NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport reported in early October. However, Rivera's fortunes soon turned.

The former San Diego Chargers defensive coordinator led the team on a franchise-record eight-game winning streak, and Carolina secured a first-round bye in the postseason after winning 11 of its last 12 matchups. The Panthers eventually fell to the San Francisco 49ers in the divisional round, but the ground work was set for a promising 2014.

Rivera is currently coaching on a four-year deal worth a total of $11.2 million. He's a favorite for Coach of the Year at NFL Honors on Saturday, and he figures to make a lot more money this time around.

We handed out awards for the 2014 coaching class and talked all the latest headlines in the latest "Around The League Podcast."

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