Panthers announce extension for RB Jonathan Stewart

AP

Before the Panthers could even kick off in their opener, they’ve already won.

The team announced a five-year contract extension for running back Jonathan Stewart, which will carry him through the 2017 season.

“We are thrilled to be able to extend Jonathan for five additional years. He is a perfect fit for our organization,” Panthers General Manager Marty Hurney said in a statement. “He is a playmaker who can make the difference in games and we have seen the impact he and DeAngelo Williams have had on our team.”

Many thought his days were numbered when they signed Williams to an extension last year, and followed up this offseason with fullback Mike Tolbert. But the Panthers have always placed a high value on their running game, as well as keeping their own draft picks.

The fifth-year back is the second-leading rusher in franchise history (behind Williams), and since he joined the team in 2008, the Panthers have rushed for 9,189 yards, most in the league over that span.

UPDATE: 5:23 p.m. ET: Adam Schefter of ESPN tweets that the deal’s worth $36.5 million up to $42.5 million, with $22.5 million guaranteed.  That’s a lot of money for a guy who’s not technically a starter, but it’s worth noting all the guaranteed money in Williams’ deal was in the first two years, which creates questions in 2013.