NFL News: The Carolina Panthers have re-signed DeAngelo Williams, their top running back and one of the bigger names on the free agency market, to a five-year contract worth somewhere in the neighborhood of $43 million--$23 million guaranteed.
So, are the Carolina Panthers for real? A team that seemed to be on the decline has sent a message around the league that they want to win now. With rookie sensation and Heisman winner Cam Newton under center, the expectations would normally be low. Even the best quarterbacks take time to learn the position.
But after Sam Bradford and Joe Flacco showed that young QBs can come into the league and perform immediately, it seems the Panthers are hoping they have a similar case with Newton, as they not only signed Williams, but also Charles Johnson--one of their star defensive ends-- and DT Ron Edwards to long-term deals.
Newton will have a lot of tools that should allow him to succeed: a strong running game and a stout defense. One weakness will be the loss of Steve Smith, one of the faces of the Panthers' franchise over the last decade, but if Carolina can find a wide receiver who can form a connection with Cam, then they may make a case to be a playoff team.
Williams was hampered by a foot injury last year and played only six games, where he rushed for 361 yards. But he is still a force to be reckoned with and when healthy is one of the top-producing backs in the league.