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Shaq Thompson hoping to stay put with Panthers

At the conclusion of the 2019 season, linebacker Shaq Thompson is set to become an unrestricted free agent.

If Thompson has his way, however, he'll be staying put in Carolina with the Panthers.

"This is a place I've been for five years," Thompson told the Charlotte Observer's Brendan Marks. "I don't want to know any other place."

With Carolina having picked up his fifth-year option, the 2015 NFL Draft's 25th pick is set to make $9.23 million in 2019.

To say it will be a pivotal season for Thompson is an understatement.

As aforementioned, he'll be playing in the final year of his contract. In addition, he'll be coming back from a season-ending trip to injured reserve with a lingering shoulder injury and he'll be transitioning, along with the rest of the defense, from a 4-3 scheme to a 3-4 in the wake of Thomas Davis' departure.

With Davis gone, Thompson should be called upon for more reps and more opportunity to show his range and versatility.

The new scheme seems to be coming together, as well.

"We're all used to 4-3, but we're getting adjusted to this 3-4," he said. "I like it. It's just knowing where to line up and how things fit a little bit differently with the front and all that."

In 2018, Thompson's 79 tackles in 11 starts (14 games) tied Davis for second on the Panthers and his 3.5 sacks were third on the team. He's been called upon to play in nickel packages and occasionally at safety, so his versatility has come to the forefront.

As Thompson's role with the Panthers has increased, he has improved.

Thus, as the 2019 kickoff dawns, everything seems to be in place for Thompson to have an impressive season and convince Carolina to bring him back. It's just up to him to seize the day -- and a new contract.

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