According to a source with knowledge of the situation close to the Charlotte Observer, the Carolina Panthers want to keep their star running back duo of Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams. It was once thought that the Panthers would let Williams go due to the sheer amount of money he is set to make, but a 210-yard rushing day against the New Orleans Saints in the season finale combined with Jonathan Stewart’s lack of health have made more fans push for keeping Williams.
That is what the Panthers would reportedly like to do, but it will be difficult to keep both high-priced backs on the team. Stewart signed a five-year deal worth a little over $36 million before the season started, while Williams will be a free agent in 2016 and is still owed plenty of money ($5 million next year). Mike Tolbert signed a $10 million for four years last offseason to be the Panthers No. 3 back, so that’s certainly a lot of money tied up to all three backs.
Although Williams is 29 and might not have many big seasons left in him, he has shown that he can hold up over the course of a season and consistently be there to carry the rock. Stewart is younger at 25, but, as we saw last year, he is also a huge injury risk. It would be great for the Panthers to keep both guys in the backfield, because it would keep the league’s top RB duo intact and really help out Cam Newton and the passing offense.
The problem is that the Panthers are going to be around $10 million over the salary cap and will have to make some incredibly difficult decisions. Most of those close decisions will sway towards “no” if the Panthers choose to keep DeAngelo Williams, because that’s a significant amount of money that will be sacrificed to Williams and not used on other players. The Panthers also have several needs (such as at DT and guard), and it will be interesting to see if they can restructure more contracts. They already restructured Ryan Kalil, Jonathan Stewart, and Haruki Nakamura this offseason.
Dave Gettleman said, “Can we keep both of them? Again, decisions have to be made. I don’t see why not.”
Gettleman’s take is vague but certainly on point, and it’s the best we can definitely say right now. There’s no reason to think that the Panthers can’t keep both star running backs, but it’s going to be difficult to due to all the decisions the Panthers still have to make this offseason at other positions.
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