INDIANAPOLIS The Panthers want to keep their highly paid, backfield tandem intact.
Despite being about $10 million over the projected $122 million salary cap, the Panthers plan to keep both running backs DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart, a league source with knowledge of the situation said Saturday.
Williams, 29, is due to make $5 million this year and a has a cap figure of $8.2 million.
The Panthers believe they can retain Williams at his current numbers. But a restructuring is possible depending on the teams other moves prior to the March 12 start of the league year, the source said.
When the Panthers signed Stewart to a five-year, $36.5 million extension last August, there was speculation Carolina would not be able to afford both backs. Green Bay was among the teams who inquired about Williams before the trade deadline, but he remained in Charlotte and re-claimed his starting spot after Stewart went down with ankle issues.
Williams, the franchise rushing leader, rushed for 737 yards and five touchdowns last season. He ran for a club-record 210 yards in a Week 17 win at New Orleans.
Stewart, 25, underwent arthroscopic surgery on his left ankle in January after missing seven games with issues with both ankles. He finished 2012 with 93 carries for 336 yards and a touchdown.
The Panthers signed free agent fullback Mike Tolbert to a four-year, $10 million deal last winter. Tolberts seven rushing touchdowns and his 27 catches were the most among the teams backs.
Stewarts contract was recently re-worked to convert future option money into guaranteed base salaries, a move that was not made for cap purposes.
Asked this week at the scouting combine whether the Panthers could keep both Williams and Stewart, first-year general manager Dave Gettleman said: Can we keep both of them? Again, decisions have to be made. I dont see why not.
Panthers coach Ron Rivera referred questions about the running backs to Gettleman.
Patterson a Panthers fan. Cordarrelle Patterson took a circuitous route to the top of the wide receiver draft lists. The Rock Hill native, who played at Northwestern High, went to North Carolina Tech Christian Academy and Hutchinson (Kan.) Community College before arriving at Tennessee last season.
Patterson, 6-foot-2 and 216 pounds, made an immediate impact by beating N.C. State cornerback David Amerson repeatedly in the season opener. He went on to become the first NCAA player in four years to score a touchdown four ways.
Patterson said he grew up dreaming about playing for the Panthers and always liked Carolina wideout Steve Smith.
My mama, she talks about that all the time, Patterson said. If I could be that close to home, I know shed be at every game possible.
NFLDraftScout.com ranks Patterson as the No. 2 receiver behind Cals Keenan Allen, who is from Greensboro. Allen is not running at the combine due to a knee injury but will run at Cals pro day March 14.
Allens absence in the drills Sunday might allow Patterson to overtake him on the draft boards. Patterson said he hasnt given it much thought.
Theres rumors coming around that I can be, he said. I hope this weekend I can show that I can be that No. 1 receiver.
Cooper has strong showing. Former UNC guard Jonathan Cooper has tested well in Indy, running the 40-yard dash in 5.07 seconds and doing 35 reps on the 225-pound bench press. Only Ohios Eric Herman, with 36, did more among offensive linemen.
Alabamas Chance Warmack, vying with Cooper to be the top guard in the draft, was clocked at 5.49 seconds in the 40.