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The Carolina Panthers’ decision to sign both DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart to long-term deals was a curious move. Despite good production throughout their careers, Williams and Stewart haven’t been nearly as effective in the past few years.
Because of his age, Williams would be the most likely backfield member to be sent packing. Stewart is only 26 years old, while Williams just turned 30.
The contract situation isn’t the only reason Williams is on the chopping block. Carolina gave Mike Tolbert (a fullback, sure, but a good runner) a sizable contract last year and added Kenjon Barner in the sixth round of this year’s draft. Both players would provide good depth behind Stewart.
It’s also important to point out that this offense goes through Cam Newton. He needs to have the ball in his hands as much as possible, and less money in the backfield means less of an obligation to hand the ball off.
When Williams signed his current deal, he received a $16 million signing bonus. After two seasons, only $6.4 million of that has been counted against the salary cap. This means releasing Williams creates nearly $10 million in dead money.
Cutting Stewart, meanwhile, would result in roughly $14.5 million, so this is all about picking the lesser of two evils. Given the age difference, Carolina should consider dumping Williams to open up space in the backfield and eventually better distribute the money.