While most NFL teams were shifting their offensive strategies toward three and four wide receiver sets and attacking through the air with precision strikes, former Carolina Panthers general manager Marty Hurney spent $89.211 million on three running backs.
That move was one of the pieces that ultimately led to Hurney’s ousting as general manager, but the lingering effects are sure hamstringing the franchise.
The Panthers, with new general manager Dave Gettleman, have made very little noise in free agency thus far. It’s not because Gettleman thinks his roster is ready to rock for the 2013 season—far from it.
Carolina has next to zero money to spend on free agents. Carrying three high-priced running backs on the roster is a huge reason why.
Between DeAngelo Williams, Jonathan Stewart and Mike Tolbert, the Panthers will spend $13.24 million this year. Williams’ contract is the biggest culprit. He’s scheduled to count $8.2 million against the cap, according to Spotrac.
Jamey Eisenberg of CBS Sports reported Wednesday that head coach Ron Rivera said the Panthers were open to trading Williams. And that’s exactly what Carolina needs to do.
Jamey Eisenberg @JameyEisenberg
#Panthers coach Ron Rivera would welcome back DeAngelo Williams, but he knows that might not happen. Said team is open to trading Williams.3/20/2013, 5:21:48 PM
The contract Williams signed is only part of the reason he needs to be traded. There just aren’t enough touches to go around for Williams to be anywhere close to worth $8.2 million.
Williams carried the ball 173 times last year for 737 yards. He hasn’t rushed for more than 1,000 yards since 2009. He’s still sporting a good yards per carry average (4.3 last year, 5.4 in 2011) but has to share duties, which is sapping his value.
As if the cap mess Carolina is in right now isn’t enough, it gets much worse next year.
If all three running backs are carried on the roster in 2013, they’ll be scheduled for raises for the 2014 season. Williams is slated to make $9.2 million in 2014, Stewart $6.05 million. Even Tolbert gets bumped up to $3.325 million.
Unless the Panthers want to be sitting in the same situation 12 months from now, staring at three running backs due to make $18.575 million in 2014, something has to be done.
This Carolina franchise has a solid nucleus of talented players. But until Gettleman is handed a money purse with some available cash in it to put the finishing touches on a playoff-caliber roster, the Panthers will be stuck in seven-win territory.
Unless otherwise noted, all quotes and statements were obtained firsthand.