The Carolina Panthers reached a five-year contract extension with running back Jonathan Stewart on Saturday.
Panthers general manager Marty Hurney says the team is ”thrilled” to keep Stewart around to work with fellow running back DeAngelo Williams, who received a five-year contract last year, and new fullback Mike Tolbert.
The new deal keeps Stewart a Panther through 2017.
Financial terms of the deal weren’t immediately available. ESPN, citing sources, reported the deal includes $22.5 million in guaranteed money and is worth $36.5 million overall.
Hurney calls Stewart a ”playmaker who came make a difference in games” and that ”we have seen the impact he and DeAngelo Williams have had on our team.”
The move came before the Panthers opened the preseason Saturday night at home against the Houston Texans.
The decision also closes speculation the Panthers might attempt to trade Stewart because of their depth at running back. Stewart was in the last year of his contract.
However, Hurney said that was never an option.
”We didn’t even consider it,” Hurney said. ”He’s a valuable player for us. All you have to do is look is look at his production. I think you look at it as if you try to add as many weapons as possible on offense, regardless of position. And Jonathan and DeAngelo have been a proven to be a solid 1-2 punch for us. They have been a proven commodity and we wanted to make sure we didn’t lose Jonathan.”
Technically Stewart is a backup running back for the Panthers, but in name only. In fact, Stewart had 189 total touches last season, 18 more than Williams.
Hurney said Stewart’s ”multi-dimensional” skills are a huge help.
Along with rushing for 761 yards and four touchdowns last season, Stewart also caught 47 passes for 413 yards receiving with three scores. He served extensively as the team’s third-down back last season.
Stewart has run for 26 touchdowns in his four seasons.
Hurney said re-signing Stewart, a first-round draft pick in 2008, has been a priority this offseason.
”We feel like you have to keep your good players,” Hurney said. ”That’s why we aren’t active in free agency. We place an emphasis on re-signing the players we’ve drafted. And Jonathan is a valuable player for us.”
A fifth-year running back, Stewart is the team’s second leading career rusher behind Williams with 3,500 yards. In 2009, Stewart ran for 1,133 yards and 10 touchdowns.