Many people could argue that Williams is splitting time with his Double Trouble associate, Jonathan Stewart and that is the main reason why his stats are not as impressive as they have been in the past. It’s true that Stewart has not fared much better; he only has 327 yards on 71 carries with two touchdowns. However, Stewart has been a much better fit for the offensive when considering his ability to catch the ball out of the backfield. Stewart has 23 receptions on the season which have gone for a total of 220 yards. Stewart will be a free-agent following the 2012 season and is still playing on his rookie contract which makes him one of the better bargains in the NFL. Williams is one of the highest paid running backs in the league and has seen his productivity drop significantly this year. It could also be argued that the Panthers’ fondness of throwing the ball has taken the ball out of Williams’ hands. However, why pay a man $43 million for being a decoy to opposing defenses?
For the money they used on Williams, the Panthers front office could have aggressively targeted someone like former Packer, Cullen Jenkins. Jenkins eventually signed a 5 year $30.4 million contract with the Philadelphia Eagles. Jenkins has been solid this year netting 18 tackles and 5 sacks. Other defensive tackle possibilities included Brandon Mebane ( 5 years, $25 million with Seattle; 27 tackles), Aubrayo Franklin (1 year, $4 million with New Orleans; 14 tackles), Barry Cofield (6 years, $36 million with Washington; 13 tackles, 2 sacks), and Alan Branch (2 years, $8 million with Seattle; 17 tackles, 1 sack). The Panthers’ run defense has been absolutely dreadful this season and one of the aforementioned defensive linemen could have positively bolstered the Panthers run defense and could have even helped the team add a couple of victories to their record thus far.
Jerry Richardson sent a letter to Panther season ticket holders and to Carolina fans early in the off-season stating that the team’s 2010 performance was unacceptable and that he would make aggressive moves to make the team winners again. I can’t help but wonder if giving Williams his major contract will hurt the team’s ability to re-sign Stewart after the 2012 season or to bring other elite free agents to the team in the next couple of off-seasons. Of course, if Williams’ productivity increases, my entire argument will be for naught. I hope for the Panthers’ sake that happens.