It wouldn't have been a surprise at one point this offseason to see the Panthers release at least half of the running back duo of Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams, due mostly to the disappointment of their recent production and their salary cap implications. But Williams reportedly has signed a restructured deal that will keep him in Carolina through 2015.
The new Williams contract will lower his cap number enough to put the Panthers $8.2 million under the cap for the 2013 season, according to Yahoo Sports' Brian McIntyre.
Williams was entering the third season of a five-year, $43 million deal, and his cap number for 2013 originally was $8.2 million. Though he'll receive the same amount of cash -- a 2013 salary of $5 million -- his cap number has been reduced because most of his money has been transformed into a signing bonus.
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Prior to restructuring his contract, Williams was scheduled to earn base salaries of $5.75 million in 2014 and $6.75 million in 2015 with $250,000 in annual workout bonuses ($500,000 total) for a total of $13 million. The restructured deal reduces those base salaries to $1.85 million in each season (with up to $750,000 available in undisclosed base salary escalators in each year) with $150,000 in annual workout bonuses ($300,000 total). Williams is also due a $1 million option bonus -- prorated over the 2015-17 seasons -- between the first and fourth day of the 2015 league year.
Over those two seasons, Williams is scheduled to receive $5 million, a potential cash savings of $8 million to the Panthers over the remainder of Williams' contract. The Panthers tacked on two "dummy" years in 2016 and 2017 for proration purposes, but both of those seasons will void if Williams is on the Panthers' roster four days after Super Bowl L (Feb. 11, 2016).
All of that means the Panthers will save $3.2 million on the cap in 2014 and slightly less than $4 million in 2015.
A few months ago, Panthers general manager Dave Gettleman alluded to keeping Williams and Stewart, who combined for 1,073 rushing yards and six touchdowns last season. And, for now, Stewart seems safe as well after signing a five-year extension last season. The Panthers also signed Mike Tolbert to a four-year, $10 million deal last year.
Still, did it actually make sense to keep Williams and Stewart? Apparently so.
“Can we keep both of them? Again, decisions have to be made," Gettleman said at the NFL combine. "I don't see why not.”