The Carolina Panthers made earthquakes with their 2011 free agent signings. Though most of their focus centered on re-signing their core players, the Panthers consistently made NFL headlines by being one of the more active organizations on the market. One deal that made major noise was the re-signing of running back, DeAngelo Williams. On the surface the move was a no-brainer seeing that Williams has been successful in Carolina and was widely regarded as one of the top five free agents on the market.
With the NFL season half over for the Panthers, I have often wondered to myself if re-signing Williams was the right move for the Panthers to make. I was one of the few Panther Nation members who advocated for letting Williams walk, taking the compensation pick, and using the money that would be spend on re-signing him on another stud receiver, an elite tight-end like Zach Miller, or a big-bodied veteran to stick in the middle of the defensive line. To hear my rationale on this situation (or crazy thinking) continue to read.
DeAngelo Williams signed a mega 5 year $43 million contract with Carolina on July 29. The details that stood out to many people in NFL circles were the $21 million in guarantees that Williams received as well as the $16 million bonus. Now, when people like Chris Johnson, Adrian Peterson, or soon to be Matt Forte ask for a new contract, they ask for “DeAngelo Williams money” or use Williams’ contract as the base of their negotiations. The signing of Williams was greeted with praise by many in Panther Nation and the NFL community alike. However, the money given to Williams made me cringe.
Williams was part of a then stable running back corps of Jonathan Stewart, the promising Michael Goodson, and solid veteran Tyrell Sutton. Conceivably, the Panthers could have let Williams go to another team (Miami Dolphins?) and still could have been an effective running team. The organization could have netted a high compensation pick in the 2012 draft which could be used to help build depth on the offensive line or in the line-backing corp. More than anything they could have used the $43 million to sign one or possibly two very solid defensive tackles.
So what are the Panthers getting for the money they have invested in Williams? Well so far, Williams is averaging less than ten carries a game and is only averaging 45 yards per game. Williams has a total of 363 yards on 75 carries with a lone touchdown. In the Panthers last game against the Vikings Williams only received 32% of the Panthers’ rushes (7 of 22 called plays). Many people advocated keeping Williams around because they thought he would be a better fit in Rob Chudzinki’s offensive system that likes to see the back catch the ball out of the back-field. In the receiving area, however, Williams only has ten receptions for a total of 61 yards.