There's little doubt entering the 2017 season that, barring injury, Jonathan Stewart should break the Carolina Panthers’ all-time rushing record. Now he can do it with the confidence that this will not be his last season in a Carolina uniform.
The nine-year NFL veteran signed a one-year contract extension Friday to remain with the Panthers through 2018, the team announced.
Stewart is currently the second-leading rusher in Panthers history with 6,638 yards, trailing former teammate DeAngelo Williams by just 208 yards. His history with Carolina made extending his stay an easy decision.
“It means a lot. This is a special place,” Stewart said in an interview with the team's website. “The fans and the organization, they’ve always been good to me. We’re all here to win the ultimate prize. I’m just glad to be here.”
The 30-year old is coming off a season in which he rushed for 824 yards in 13 games, all starts, and scored nine touchdowns. Stewart has not played in all 16 games in any of the last five seasons, but has rushed for more than 800 yards and better than four yards per carry in each of the last three.
The Panthers are coming off a 6-10 season in which they finished last in the NFC South, but are two years removed from a Super Bowl appearance.
This Panthers have said they are going to try to put more of a focus on getting the ball into Stewart’s hands in 2017 after quarterback Cam Newton was asked to carry the ball nearly 100 times this past season.
“The biggest thing, our realization is that our primary runner cannot be our quarterback," coach Ron Rivera said in an interview with ESPN in February. “We’re going to look to do a little more backfield sets in terms of two backs and 12 personnel with the extra tight end as the lead blocker.
“We’ve got to get guys like Jonathan Stewart rolling. We’ve got to put it in our backs’ hands and get the ball to our playmakers.”