Panthers release Foster to start offseason overhaul

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The Carolina Panthers released starting running back DeShaun Foster on Thursday, a move that clears salary-cap space and opens the door for DeAngelo Williams to become the team's featured back.

Foster was cut after a week of the Panthers trying to shop him in a trade.

"There were some conversations, but nothing came about," general manager Marty Hurney said.

"We wish him the best because we'll always hold him in high regard. We just thought it was time to go in another direction."

Foster was in the final year of a three-year, $14.5 million contract and his release saves the Panthers $4.75 million in salary-cap space.

Foster started 30 games over the past two seasons. Injuries bothered him early in his career and at a young age, Foster underwent microfracture knee surgery because one of his knees was bone-on-bone.

Foster's agent, Joby Branion, did not immediately return phone and e-mail messages seeking comment. The 28-year-old Foster released a statement through the team indicating he plans to continue his career.

"While I certainly will miss my teammates and friends in Charlotte, my quest for a Super Bowl ring is far from over," Foster said.

Carolina's second-round pick in 2002 appeared to have a bright future with the Panthers early in his career. After missing his rookie season with a knee injury, Foster came on late in Carolina's Super Bowl season in 2003, highlighted by his remarkable game-clinching 1-yard touchdown run in the NFC Championship at Philadelphia when he broke four tackles.

After missing all but four games in 2004 with a shoulder injury, Foster took over as the starter for the aging Stephen Davis late in the 2005 season.

But Foster was fumble-prone and failed to get the Panthers back to the ground-oriented attack that coach John Fox prefers.

Foster, Carolina's second-round pick in 2002, never rushed for more than 897 yards in six seasons plagued by fumbles and injuries. His yards per carry have dropped from 4.3 in 2005 to 3.5 last season.

Williams, Carolina's first-round pick in 2006, started getting more carries late last season. While Foster gained 876 yards to Williams' 717, Williams averaged 5 yards per carry to Foster's 3.5 and appeared to be much more explosive.

Hurney said the plan is to make Williams the No. 1 back.

"DeAngelo was a first-round pick two years ago and we have all the confidence in him and think that he's very good," Hurney said.

Foster's release is another in a series of moves this month for the Panthers, who are overhauling their roster after missing the playoffs for a second straight season. Linebacker Dan Morgan and left guard Mike Wahle, both former starters, were released last week.

Foster, a locker room favorite, joined the list Thursday. And while he'll be remembered as an ordinary back, Foster is Carolina's career leader with 3,336 yards rushing. Foster also saved his best for the postseason -- he had a team-record 151 yards rushing in a win over the New York Giants in the 2005 playoffs.

"DeShaun had the ability to make big plays in big games and always gave his best regardless of his role," Fox said in a statement. "He never complained and was a professional in every sense of the word. We wish nothing but the best for DeShaun."

ESPN.com senior writer John Clayton contributed to this report. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.