Stewart or Williams in Carolina?

With the Carolina Panthers facing major salary-cap issues, it’s becoming quite obvious there’s almost no way they can keep both DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart.

One of them almost certainly has to go because (along with fullback Mike Tolbert) the Panthers have way too much money tied up in their backfield.

Blame it on former general manager Marty Hurney for giving out two huge contracts to guys that play the same position. Or blame the coaching staff for not working in conjunction with Hurney and making sure there were enough carries to go around.

Whatever, new general manager Dave Gettleman has a major dilemma on his hands.

Should he keep Williams or should he keep Stewart?

If you’re going on pure football ability, I’d keep Williams. I think he’s a better all-around running back and he doesn’t have Stewart’s history of injuries.

But the decision might not come down to pure football ability. It might come down to pure economics and the contract the Panthers handed Stewart last summer makes it virtually impossible to cut him – at least if the Panthers want any financial gain.

They’d take an immediate $7 million cap hit if they released Stewart, who is scheduled to count $3.015 million against the 2013 cap. That’s largely because Stewart’s base salary is guaranteed for each of the next three seasons and only one year of his pro-rated money has been eaten up.

Releasing Williams, whose contract runs through 2015, might be the more practical way to go. Williams is carrying an $8.2 million cap figure for 2013. If the Panthers release him and designate him as a June 1 cut (and spread his hit out over this year and next) they immediately would clear $3.4 million in cap space for 2013.

Restructuring one or both contracts is possible, but it probably isn’t in the best interest of the Panthers to tie up any more long-term money in the running back position as they try to work their way out of a nightmare cap situation.

Let’s hear your thoughts on if the Panthers should keep Stewart or Williams. Cast your vote in the SportsNation poll and back up the reasoning for your vote in the comments section below.