The Panthers’ decision to sign running back Mike Tolbert as a free agent this offseason, it called into question their plans for the future with Jonathan Stewart, who can become a free agent after this season.
Stewart said that he wanted to stay with the team and the Panthers said that they were interested in signing him to an extension. That turned out to be little more than lip service, but it hasn’t soured Stewart on sticking with the team in 2013 and beyond.
“We’re good. There’s no reason I would want to leave as of now,” Stewart said to Joe Person of the Charlotte Observer. “That being said, I’m a Panther and I intend on being one.”
The difficult part of keeping Stewart is going to be the five-year, $43 million deal that the team signed DeAngelo Williams to before last season. Matching the Williams deal would make it tough for the Panthers to keep both players and Stewart has a decent argument that he deserves a bigger deal based on 2011 and the expected trajectory for the future. Stewart played 55 percent of the snaps last season and Williams rarely saw action in the red zone, trends that don’t figure to change now that Tolbert is in town as well.