Between the Panthers’ 5 year extension to DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart, the Panthers have committed a combined 43.5 million guaranteed to two different running backs, DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart, in the last 2 offseason. Last offseason, Williams got 5 years, 43 million with 21 million guaranteed and Jonathan Stewart now has received 5 years, 36.5 million with 22.5 million guaranteed in an extension, heading into a contract year.
Both are talented backs capable of being #1 backs, but that’s way too much money to commit to any one position other than quarterback. It makes no sense to essentially pay 7.3 million and 8.6 million per year respectively and commit 22.5 million and 21 million respectively to two players who will split carries at not even that important of a position
That’s especially true for the Panthers since Cam Newton is essentially their goal line back, gets about a 3rd of their carries, and is the guy who opens things up on the ground and allows both backs to average 5.4 YPC like they did last season. Stewart and Williams combined for just 297 carries last season. That’s not nearly worth the kind of money they’re paying them in what’s becoming less and less a running league.
However, I already bashed the Panthers for giving DeAngelo Williams that ridiculous extension last offseason, essentially giving him the kind of money that LeSean McCoy, Ray Rice, Matt Forte, and Arian Foster got this offseason even though he’s older than those two (already heading into his age 29 season), less talented, less durable, and splits carries.
The Panthers’ extension to Stewart is actually pretty well deserved as he heads into his age 25 season. This extension will take him through his age 30 season. He’s more than capable of carrying the load if given the opportunity. In 2009, his only real chance to be a lead back, he rushed for 1133 yards and 10 touchdowns on 221 carries, including 749 yards and 6 touchdowns on 134 carries in the final 8 games of the season, when a broken down Williams missed 3 games and managed just 349 yards on 67 carries and didn’t score. Also, while he has a rep for being injury prone, Stewart has only missed 2 games in 4 seasons. It is fair, however, fair to question if his durability would be the same if he were getting more carries.
Since the Panthers were very backed up against the cap this offseason, they figure to be even more backed up against it next offseason after this extension, so they could try to trade DeAngelo Williams, but I don’t think a lot of teams are going to want to take on his contract at his age. Cutting him, meanwhile, would lead to a 4.85 million dollar cap hit, which wouldn’t really help them out cap wise. These two deals will put them in a very bad cap situation for at least one offseason and restrict their ability to upgrade other parts of the team, which really need at coming off a 6-10 season.
They should have just let Williams go last offseason, made Williams the lead back and found a complimentary back. If they had done that, this extension would have made sense (assuming he proved he could carry the load without getting hurt), but they didn’t, so it’s a bit head scratching, but I don’t completely hate it, even if it is a ton of guaranteed money to commit to someone who has never carried the ball more than 221 times in a season. I mostly just hate the Williams extension even more. For reference, here’s my grade of the Williams signing from last offseason.