Carolina Panthers

As free agency approaches, what’s the ‘deal’ with Panthers’ Daryl Williams?

One of the Panthers’ top free agents likely will be testing the market when the new league year begins next week.

Tackle Daryl Williams began extension talks with the Panthers in June, as reported by the Observer at the time.

But when it became clear that there was a gap in the financial expectations of the team and Williams’ camp, negotiations stalled.

Williams then suffered two knee injuries, first in training camp the following month and then in Week 1 of the regular season, and went on injured reserve. According to a source with knowledge of the situation, those circumstances did not do much to bring the two sides any closer in negotiations.

Any ongoing conversations, however, were characterized by a league source as “productive,” but because the start of free agency is so close, it is too late in the process for Williams to not test the market.

Teams may begin contract talks with agents on March 11, before the new league year begins on March 13 at 4 p.m.

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Williams, a fourth-round pick out of Oklahoma in 2015, started all 16 games for the Panthers in 2017. That season, he played every offensive snap, finishing the year as Pro Football Focus’ highest-rated right tackle and with second-team All-Pro honors.

Williams spent the 2018 season recovering from surgery to repair the second knee injury.

The Panthers could still try to re-sign him. But if Carolina is unable to bring Williams back in free agency, the team would start Taylor Moton, a second-round pick in 2017.

Moton played there in place of Williams in 2018 and fared well. Carolina feels confident in his development alongside right guard Trai Turner, a four-time Pro-Bowler.

Less clear in the coming weeks is the center and left side of the offensive line — and its depth.

Carolina could save about $7.5 million against the 2019 salary cap if left tackle Matt Kalil is designated as a post-June 1 cut.

But it’s not clear if the team is ready to give up on Kalil, who still has $40 million left on his deal. Head coach Ron Rivera expressed confidence in Kalil’s future with the Panthers while speaking at the 2019 NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis last week. Kalil spent the 2018 season on injured reserve after hurting his knee in training camp.

The Panthers will return backup center/guard Greg Van Roten in 2019. Van Roten played every snap at left guard for Carolina in 2018, after All-Pro Andrew Norwell left in free agency the previous spring. Yet the team wants to continue to add depth and competition at the position.

And at center, Carolina is seeking a replacement for five-time Pro-Bowler Ryan Kalil, who retired at the end of the 2018 season.

The Panthers extended backup center Tyler Larsen last spring, but see him as a bridge player and reliable option at backup center and guard as they likely find Kalil’s ultimate replacement in the 2019 draft.

Jourdan has covered the Carolina Panthers as a beat writer since 2016, and froze during Pennsylvania winters as an award-winning Penn State football beat writer before that. A 2014 graduate of the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism, she’s on a never-ending quest for trick plays and the stories that give football fans goosebumps.
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