Bob Leverone/Associated Press
The Carolina Panthers have a lot of money tied up in their backfield. Collectively, DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart are costing the franchise approximately $2.64 million. Williams is the oldest among the two, but he has been more durable than his teammate. However, his production has dropped considerably since 2009—his last 1,000-yard season.
Williams rushed for just 843 yards and scored just three times. For a team needing its running game to take the pressure off Cam Newton, that isn't a great statistic. If Stewart can play a full season and be a big contributor in the offense, everything may be a lot easier.
There is no denying the talent and ability of Jonathan Stewart. There's also no denying the fact he has been battling injuries off and on since 2012. He seems to relegated to a backup role, despite splitting carries with Williams. Stewart has been doing what he can to get back into playing shape and be a contributor on the field.
He may have one more chance to prove himself in 2014.
Carolina went out and drafted running back Tyler Gaffney in the sixth round. He may not be a huge playmaker in his first season, but he could definitely make a statement that he is the future of the Carolina backfield with a solid rookie performance.
Stewart has only appeared in 15 games since 2012, rushed for 516 yards and scored just once. As mentioned before, Williams has been durable and could still be a major factor in the running game. With the question marks surrounding Stewart's reliability, a slip-up this season could mark the end of his career with the Panthers.
The one thing working in Stewart's favor is his price.
He is a cheaper option than Williams whose 2014 salary is approximately $1.9 million. By comparison, Stewart is making $785,000. However, it will come down to whether or not his performance can justify that contract, despite the fact his deal was restructured last year.
Hopefully, he can rebound from his injury and be a productive member of the offense. If not, a lot of money will be tied up in a liability. Williams' contract runs through 2016, while Stewart's expires in 2018. If there is anything left from these two, the time is now to prove it. Otherwise, it will be time for the Panthers to start making changes.