According to Brian McIntyre of Yahoo! Sports, Williams has agreed to slash over $8 million in cap space over the next two seasons in return for an all-but-guaranteed roster spot in 2013 and the chance to have a financially-viable opportunity to stick in Carolina for 2014 and 2015.
For the Panthers, the move means Williams will be around next season—likely in a continually reduced role—and at a much more reasonable price.
Without the extension, Williams was a likely candidate to be released as a June 1st designation.
Coming off back-to-back seasons (2008-09) in which he rushed for over 2,600 yards and 25 touchdowns, Williams agreed to a five-year, $43 million deal in 2010 that would keep him in Carolina through 2015. The new contract included $21 million in guaranteed money and restricting cap numbers at the end of the deal.
In 2013, Williams would have counted $8.2 million against the Panthers' cap.
The new restructure, which guaranteed Williams $4 million this year in the form of a signing bonus, will now count just $5 million. The savings of $3.2 million allows the Panthers to be comfortably under the cap (nearly $9 million), with the attractive option of rolling over available money to the 2014 cap.
The Panthers will now have Williams as a more affordable part of their well-stocked running back stable next season.
Splitting carries with Jonathan Stewart for the better part of the last two seasons, Williams has averaged 4.8 yards per carry and scored 14 total touchdowns. He hasn't cracked 175 carries since 2009, the last season he rushed for over 1,000 yards. But despite entering the dreaded 30-year-old stage of his running back life, Williams is still an effective runner when used in a complementary role.
That said, this restructuring sends a clear signal to Williams that his role in the Panthers offense will continue to be reduced.
Last season, Williams played on just over 40 percent of Carolina's overall offensive snaps, and that number isn't expected to rise in 2013. Stewart is only 26 years old, and the Panthers also drafted running back Kenjon Barner out of Oregon in the sixth round of the 2013 NFL draft. Carries will continue to become more and more limited for the veteran back.
However, Williams' new deal allows him to potentially be a part of the Panthers' plans beyond 2013.
His original deal would have called for Williams to make nearly $13 million in base salaries in 2014 and 2015, but he's now scheduled to make just $1.85 million in base salaries in each season. Such low numbers could allow Williams to stick in Carolina, just as long as he remains healthy and effective.
Overall, this restructuring has to be viewed as nothing less than a win for the Panthers.
Not only did Carolina turn a still-effective running option into a more affordable and cap-friendly piece this season, but they did so without losing the ability to hold onto Williams in the years after 2013. The Panthers can now spend some needed open money (or roll over the cap room to next year) while still having Williams on the roster next season.