The Carolina Panthers will bring back tackle Daryl Williams on a one-year deal worth between six and seven million dollars, according to multiple reports Wednesday as the official start of the NFL year kicked off with a bang as the Williams news dropped onto social media just after 4p Wednesday.
When Williams left Panthers training camp last July on a cart, most believed he would miss at least the first part of the season; six weeks later he was recovered enough from a dislocated patella and torn MCL enough to start Week 1 against the Dallas Cowboys, only to suffer another knee injury that would force him under the knife and onto injured reserve.
A lost 2018 season for Williams must have been frustrating for the 2017 second-team All-Pro tackle as he neared the end of his rookie contract – a 26-year old tackle, especially one with Williams’ experience and All-Pro status, can expect to be in line for a long-term contract and a serious payday.
He’d like to show that he’s worth both of those things, but he’ll need to show that he is fully healthy and can perform at the same level he did before the injury – that’s likely why he reportedly signed a one-year “prove it” deal worth $7m in Carolina – other right tackles, including Ja’Wuan James, who missed the second half of 2017 with a hamstring injury before bouncing back to play 15 games in 2018 and is now expected to sign the biggest contract for a right tackle in NFL history with the Broncos, will go for a much higher cap figure than seven million dollars.
And a much longer contract than one year; Williams reportedly explored other options before opting to return to Carolina on the shorter deal.
So now the Panthers have three tackles on the roster who have started all 16 games of a season in one of the past two seasons – Williams, who can play both left and right tackle, Matt Kalil, who missed all of 2018 but is due to make $14.7m this season, and former second-round pick Taylor Moton, who started Week 1 at left tackle before kicking over to right tackle for the rest of the season. Moton was thought to be the heir apparent to Williams on the right side, but he feels comfortable on the left side as well.
“Everything is just kind of flipped over,” said Moton last season about the switch from right to left. “So for me, I’ve known that I might have to go at either spot, left or right, guard or tackle – so I’ve done what I could to make sure I get reps at it. Obviously, it’s not the same as going against a live player, but going against a guy like Mario Addison [in practice] all week has helped me prepare and gotten me better, so I feel confident about it.”
Williams also has experience playing left tackle.
The Panthers can save $7.25m if they choose to release Kalil before Friday and designate that move as a post-June 1 release.