Mike Tolbert is a unique backfield asset since he can function as a fullback, tailback and pass-catching threat. It's no wonder the Carolina Panthers didn't want him to get away in free agency this offseason.
Bryan Strickland of Panthers.com reported Tolbert signed a two-year contract with the team prior to the official start of free agency. Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reported the agreement is for two years and worth a max of $4 million.
"I had some other places to go, but this is home for me. I'm excited to be back," Tolbert told Strickland before speaking on the team's Super Bowl hopes. "We have the team to do it. That's the main reason why I came back.
"We're going to rebound and try to make another run at it."
Players with Tolbert's versatility are rare. The only other similar player who comes to mind is Oakland Raiders fullback Marcel Reece. Although he may be less heralded than Reece, Tolbert was a key cog for a team that advanced to Super Bowl 50.
Before Tolbert landed in Carolina ahead of the 2012 campaign, he had a productive stint with the San Diego Chargers to begin his NFL career. The 30-year-old is a thickly built, little tank of a man who is a vicious lead blocker and a contact-seeking ball-carrier.
Although his underrated contributions were somewhat overshadowed by two fumbles in Super Bowl 50, there's no denying Tolbert was worth retaining.
Due to his style of play and the rigorous demands his skills bring about, it remains to be seen how much longer Tolbert can be productive. He should have at least one or two more good years, so his open-market cost comes at a relative bargain.
The Panthers have built their identity around physicality on both sides of the ball. They punish opponents with a hard-nosed rushing attack spearheaded by massive quarterback Cam Newton and bruising running back Jonathan Stewart.
Tolbert was integral in setting the tone, so Carolina would've had its work cut out to find a capable replacement. Stewart and Newton are both fully capable of creating yards after contact, but Tolbert makes their jobs easier as an occasional carrier.