I was doing research on RBs for Fantasy Football 2013, when I was looking at one of our computer’s single favorite NFL RBs — the Carolina Panthers’ Jonathan Stewart.
Jonathan Stewart is physically constructed to be one of the best RBs in the NFL. He is 235-pounds, with tremendous strength (28 bench reps at his NFL Combine), and he posted a 4.46 40-time. He is almost a perfectly constructed RB, physically. I have been the “boy crying wolf” for years on Stewart for Dynasty and Traditional Fantasy Football. There have been hot moments/great FF games with Stewart, but nothing really sustainable. The Panthers have always preferred DeAngelo Williams (and his one really good season in 2008), at a minimum they have split carries between the two RBs for years.
Here we are in 2013, and nothing has changed. In fact, the Panthers just keep stacking talented RBs by drafting Oregon RB Kenjon Barner this year. They have Stewart, Williams, Tolbert, Barner…four NFL starting-level RBs. Make it five starting RBs when you add the rushing TD-vulture Cam Newton (running them in, because he cannot pass the ball successfully in congestion for TDs). There is no sustainable Fantasy Football hope with any Panthers RB in 2013. It’s a shame; especially for Stewart.
The above point is obvious enough to most all of us. What I would like to complain about is something I have railed on before — what in the world is Panthers’ management doing? Honestly, the personnel/business mistakes they are making at RB are nothing short of abject fiscal incompetence.
It’s not an issue that the Panthers have a lot of RB talent assembled…kudos on that. They do know that there is only one ball, and their QB keeps it most of the time, right? It’s not a problem with the RB talent they have. It is the payroll they are wasting on all these RBs. In this era of cheap RBs, in this era of cheap payroll draft picks, in this era of interchangeable RBs, and in this era of split-role RBs — who in the world lays out big bucks for a RB any more? The Panthers — that’s who.
People fall all over themselves trying to copy the New England Patriots. “Hey, they got two TEs, and we do too!!” Yippie! The key to the Pats offense is not that they have two TEs, because everyone has two TEs; it’s Tom Brady and the superior talent of Rob Gronkowski…it’s not just the fact of having two TEs. Did anyone see a giant fall-off in the Pats offense when Gronkowski left last year? Nope.
Why isn’t anyone jumping up and down to copy the Patriots RB business strategy? I will paraphrase what I think their plan is — “RBs are a dime-a-dozen, and we ain’t paying squat for any of them.” To the Patriots, RBs are like Dixie cups, or paper plates, or toilet paper — used up and quickly discarded. They are not to be used, saved, re-washed, and used long-term…and paying more for them after they have been used successfully.
It would be one thing if this multi-RB attack was leading to a wild level of win-loss success. Then everyone in the NFL would copy the Panthers RB philosophy. However, there is a reason why the Panthers are consistently drafting bottom-10 lately. The RB as “center of universe/offense” theory left a long time ago…and was probably always a fraud.
Last year, the Panthers gave Jonathan Stewart a six-year/$36M contract…with $11M guaranteed (and another $12M possible with roster bonuses). That awful contract, in this era, on a team with a QB who runs the ball all the time anyway, is nothing short of pure incompetence. Again, I love Stewart — but one of the highest paid RBs in the NFL? Why?
It’s not just the Stewart contract. It is also the 2011 contract of DeAngelo Williams too (again, who was good in 2008-09) for five years and $43M, with $16M guaranteed (and another $5M in roster guarantees possible). Just a scant 1-2 years later from the original conract signed — discussions were taking place about whether the Panthers should release Williams and eat the guarantees.
With both Stewart and Williams on-board, and their pairing being meaningless for wins and losses for years, the Panthers grabbed another RB we like — Mike Tolbert. He has a more reasonable four-year/$10M contract, but was he a true “need”? The Panthers barely used Tolbert in 2012.
In 2013, The Panthers top-3 RBs will cost $10M. In 2014, they will cost $14M+.
In 2013, the top-3 Panthers RBs will cost $7.4M guaranteed (actual and roster guaranteed bonuses). In 2014, the same three RBs will cost nearly $10M in guaranteed money…with more to come in 2015 and beyond. By 2015, the Panthers will have gone through another house cleaning of coaches and management, so there could be a lot of dead money eaten in 2015 with the release of all these unnecessary RBs.
If I am a Panthers fan, I am beyond incensed at what is happening to my team. These RBs are tying up valuable payroll, and handcuffing the team from moving forward. The Panthers were 10th in the NFL in rushing yards per game, and over a third of them came from their QB.
By contrast, the Patriots will spend approx. $3M in total payroll on their top-3 RBs in 2013 (Vereen, Ridley, Blount) — $7M less than the Panthers. Of that $3M spend for New England in 2013, approx. $1M is guaranteed for 2013 ($6M less than the Panthers).
If the Panthers cut all their RBs tomorrow, they would have to eat over $25M of payroll. If the Patriots did the same, it would cost them $23M less than the Panthers…just $2M to cut their top-3 RBs.
Oh yeah — the Patriots rushed for more yards per game in 2012 than the Panthers did.
One bad contract (DeAngelo Williams), maybe, maybe I could forgive. But to then do the same thing with Jonathan Stewart, when there was no reason to…makes no sense. The Panthers franchise is/has been spiraling towards an Oakland, NY Jets, Jacksonville level of “bad” the last few years. The Panthers are inching dangerously closer to being firmly mentioned with that group; and they are getting there one RB at-a-time…