When 2016 ended, many wondered if Jonathan Stewart would remain a Carolina Panther. The 30-yr old back, who has had a history of injury problems, was slated to make $8.25m. Without knowing the nuances of Stewart's contract, it seemed a reasonable idea. It fit the narrative of Carolina chasing a running back high in the draft or bringing in a free agent. Stewart wasn't released in months leading up to free agency nor did Carolina court a free agent replacement.
It was doubtful Carolina was ever going to Stewart either. He was pretty productive last season given Carolina's offensive line struggles and cutting him would only free up less than 5m in cap space. Sure, 5 million is a significant amount of a team's yearly budget. They would, however, have to pay a replacement player, which also bring down the real salary cap savings.
Extending Stewart was always the hope, and Carolina did that today. Extending Stewart guarantees his spot on the team another year at least, but it also helps spread the salary cap burden over two years instead of the majority of it hitting this season.
This is a great move by Carolina, and one that signals Stewart is happy with his role on the team. By agreeing to this extension, Stewart won't lose any money. He probably isn't guaranteed to make more either. He has, however, avoided placing Carolina in a position where they really need to consider if keeping him is the best financial move for the team. Sometimes when the budget gets a little lean, a matter of a million or two can really factor into a player's security.
Stewart has been effective over the past two years, even when limited by minor injury. This move keeps him in Carolina for two more years, gives the Panthers a little peace of mind at the running back position, and does not force the team into a corner on draft day. Stewart lives to play another day with an opportunity to stay with a familiar team and put a little extra coin in his pocket.
By Tony Dunn
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