The Panthers announced the signing of Mike Tolbert Monday, sparking speculation that they may trade one of their running backs. Carolina already has DeAngelo Williams, Jonathan Stewart, and Mike Goodson under contract at the position. Stewart will be a free agent after the season. Williams signed a five-year contract last July and would likely have less value on the trade market.
The team is billing Tolbert as a fullback, indicating they plan to keep all three players. Given Tolbert’s success running the ball with the Chargers, I can’t imagine he signed to become a blocking back. This is probably a front by the Panthers to increase their leverage in trade conversations.
If Carolina ends up trading DeAngelo Williams or Jonathan Stewart, which is what I think will happen, it could be good news for both players. They’ve split carries the past four seasons and limited each others’ numbers. While having complementary backs is critical to preserving players’ health, it cuts into stats.
Though I believe one back will be traded, it’s worth noting the Charlotte Observer says they were told Stewart won’t be dealt.
UPDATE: Chargers reporter Kevin Acee says Tolbert turned down more money from San Diego to return to the South.