Carolina Panthers running back and all-time leading rusher DeAngelo Williams told Charlotte's WBTV on Feb. 23 that the team released him last week after he had a meeting with head coach Ron Rivera and general manager Dave Gettleman.
Carolina Panthers running back DeAngelo Williams has some sad news: the team cut him last week.
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Williams made the revelation to Charlotte television station WBTV (via ESPN Carolina Panthers reporter David Newton) on Feb. 23. Carolina released Williams, the team's all-time leading rusher, last week after a meeting with head coach Ron Rivera and general manager Dave Gettleman.
Williams had no ill feelings toward the organization, per WBTV:
"We sat down, and he told me, 'The fact of the matter is we're going to have to release you.' I said, you know, 'Why?' and he said,'Because we don't run the ball enough. Just like you said back before the season started, we don't run the ball enough to keep you and [Jonathan Stewart] both, so we're going to release you.'
"[Stewart] had the hot hand at the end of the season. He's a great running back, obviously. I don't feel bitter at all. It's a business. And that business comes back and reminds us year after year -- whether it be Steve Smith, whether it be Jordan Gross, whether it be myself -- it's going to happen to every guy in that locker room, so it doesn't bother me at all."
Should the Panthers designate Williams as a post-June 1 cut, Newton stresses the Panthers will save $2 million in cap space. Prior to his release, Williams had a year left on his contract worth $6.3 million for the 2015 NFL season. Newton's sources cite the league's new collective barganing agreement in telling him Carolina has to wait until March 10 until Williams is designated as a post-June 1 cut.
Newton interviewed Gettleman at the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis last week to get his take on the matter:
"I spoke to DeAngelo. We had a great conversation. It's confidential. It's between us. DeAngelo had a tough season. He lost his mom, who he was very close to. Then came the season and he just couldn't stay healthy. It was really hard for him.
"Then he broke his hand against (the) Minnesota (Vikings). That's hard. Especially when you're 32 [in April]. But he finished the season like a pro's pro and like a man's man. I really respect DeAngelo for the way he finished it.
"I'm going to leave it where I just left it."
According to a team source who told The Charlotte Observer's Joseph Person and Jonathan Jones, the Panthers released Williams because of his declinding production and age.
Person and Jones also say that while Carolina insists it didn't run the ball enough with Williams still in the roster, only three teams were better on the ground than the Panthers during the 2014 NFL season. The Houston Texans, with Arian Foster as the primary ball carrier, have been the most dominant rushing team over the past three years. The Panthers placed second during that span.
The Charlotte Observer update also notes Gettleman apparently tried to handle Williams' situation better than he did former Panthers wide receiver Steve Smith's last year. It specifically says, "Gettleman referred to Smith in the past tense" in last year's NFL scouting combine, resulting in an ugly fallout between the organization and one of its greatest players ever.
Carolina fullback Mike Tolbert told Person and Jones via phone interview that something good will eventually come out of Williams' release:
"We're close in that running back room. To see one of our guys go is tough. But at the same time we wish him the best. He's going to be stronger and better from this. I'm happy for him because I know he wasn't that happy at times last season.
"So in order for him to get a fresh start I'm definitely happy for him in that aspect. But he's ready for a new chapter in his life, and I think he's going to be ready to go."
With the injury-plagued Williams gone, Stewart and Fozzy Whitaker will now split the carries for the Panthers, per The Charlotte Observer. However, both Stewart and Whitaker also have an extensive history of injuries. Because of that, Gettleman and Co. will consider either the upcoming NFL draft in April or free agency to shore up their running back corps.
Williams is the Panthers' all-time leading rusher with 6,846 yards and 1,432 carries. His 53 total touchdowns is second in franchise history behind Smith's 75. Williams also holds the team record for most rushing yards in a game (210) against the New Orleans Saints three years ago, per Person and Jones.
In another team development, Newton reported on Monday that left tackle Byron Bell will no longer be with the Panthers as well. This creates another void which Carolina needs to fill.
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