Carolina Panthers running back DeAngelo Williams has restructured his contract in a move that could keep the 2006 first-round pick out of Memphis with the team through the 2015 season, a source with knowledge of the situation confirmed to "Shutdown Corner".
Williams was entering the third season of a five-year, $43 million contract and was scheduled to earn $5 million in cash with an $8.2 million salary cap number for 2013. Williams will still receive $5 million in cash this year, but the deal has been restructured in a way that reduces his cap number to $5 million, a cap savings of $3.2 million that leaves the team $8.46 million under their adjusted 2013 salary cap number of $126.232 million.
Williams was scheduled to earn $4.75 million in non-guaranteed base salary with a $250,000 workout bonus this season. Under the renegotiated contract, Williams' base salary was lowered to $850,000 and his workout bonus reduced to $150,000. The remaining $4 million was converted to a signing bonus, which will be prorated against the Panthers' cap at $800,000 per season through 2017.
The real cash savings for the Panthers occurs in 2014 and 2015.
Prior to restructuring his contract, Williams was scheduled to earn base salaries of $5.75 million in 2014 and $6.75 million in 2015 with $250,000 in annual workout bonuses ($500,000 total) for a total of $13 million. The restructured deal reduces those base salaries to $1.85 million in each season (with up to $750,000 available in undisclosed base salary escalators in each year) with $150,000 in annual workout bonuses ($300,000 total). Williams is also due a $1 million option bonus — prorated over the 2015-17 seasons — between the first and fourth day of the 2015 league year.
Over those two seasons, Williams is scheduled to receive $5 million, a potential cash savings of $8 million to the Panthers over the remainder of Williams' contract. The Panthers tacked on two "dummy" years in 2016 and 2017 for proration purposes, but both of those seasons will void if Williams is on the Panthers' roster four days after Super Bowl L (Feb. 11, 2016).
In terms of salary cap savings, the Panthers are scheduled to save $3.2 million against their 2014 cap and $3.867 million on their 2015 cap. The Panthers will have to account for $2.267 million in "dead" money when the 2016 and 2017 seasons are voided.
The Panthers have a deep stable of running backs as Williams is joined by Jonathan Stewart (who renegotiated his large contract in February), 2013 sixth-round pick Kejon Barner and fullback Mike Tolbert, who was second on the team with seven rushing touchdowns in 2012.
Given the team's depth at the position and Williams' salary, his future with the Panthers had been in doubt. The Panthers could have designated Williams a "post-June 1" release at any time this offseason and doing so would have saved $5 million in cash and cap space on June 2. Instead, the Panthers have guaranteed Williams $4 million and increased his potential "dead" money from $9.6 million to $14.6 million, all but assuring him a spot on their roster in 2013. The deal increases the chances that Williams will remain in the fold through the 2015 season as his base salaries become reasonable and commensurate with a reduced role in the Panthers' offense moving forward.
Williams, 30, started 10 of 16 games for the Panthers last season, finishing with 737 yards (second behind quarterback Cam Newton's 741) and five rushing touchdowns while playing in 40.58 percent of the team's offensive snaps. Williams added a pair of touchdowns among his 13 receptions in 2013 and now has 49 touchdowns over his seven-year career with the Panthers, which ranks third in franchise history. Williams is the Panthers' all-time leader with 5,784 rushing yards and 43 rushing touchdowns.