Jonathan Stewart staying with Panthers

Jonathan Stewart Signs Extension With Panthers (0:55)

Joe Person on Jonathan Stewart signing an extension with the Panthers. (0:55)

All those who assumed that running back Jonathan Stewart would be leaving the Carolina Panthers after his contract expired at the end of this season, think again.

The Panthers just announced they have signed Stewart to a five-year contract extension. The deal is worth $36.5 million and could reach a maximum of $42.5 million. It includes $22.5 million guaranteed.

“We are thrilled to be able to extend Jonathan for five additional years," general manager Marty Hurney said. “He is a perfect fit for our organization. He is a playmaker who can make the difference in games, and we have seen the impact he and DeAngelo Williams have had on our team.”

It looked like the Panthers were overloaded in the backfield with Stewart, Williams and fullback/tailback Mike Tolbert, who was signed as a free agent this offseason. The speculation was that Tolbert was signed to ease the eventual departure of Stewart.

But that never was the reality. The Panthers have wanted to keep Stewart all along, and now they’ve made it happen.

Yes, the backfield still is crowded. But offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski is putting some new wrinkles in the playbook that should keep all the running backs happy. I think the Panthers realize they have a ton of talent in the backfield and want to get back to running on a more consistent basis after relying so heavily on Cam Newton and the passing game.

Oh, also, a lot of people were speculating the Panthers would try to trade Stewart before this season started. Obviously, that's not going to happen now.