CHARLOTTE – Veteran running back Jonathan Stewart has been released by the Panthers.
Stewart, selected in the first round of 2008 NFL Draft, has played every snap of his 10-year career with the Panthers and is Carolina's all-time leading rusher. He had one year remaining on his contract.
"Jonathan played the game the way you want. He brought an element of toughness as a runner that set the tempo for our team," head coach Ron Rivera said. "He is a great pro, and I appreciate who he is as a young man and thank him for the contribution he made."
Making the move gives the Panthers significant salary cap relief and opens the door for young players to get more opportunities. Earlier this week, Carolina released safety Kurt Coleman and defensive end Charles Johnson with similar considerations in mind.
This past season, Stewart became the franchise leader in rushing yards, passing DeAngelo Williams in a Week 4 victory at the Patriots. Stewart has 7,318 career rushing yards on 1,699 carries – also a franchise record – and in 2009 he paired with Williams to become the first teammates in NFL history to rush for more than 1,110 yards apiece in the same season.
Stewart was the Panthers' leading rusher each year from 2014-16. He rushed for 680 yards this past season, when quarterback Cam Newton paced Carolina in rushing. Stewart averaged a career-low 3.4 yards per carry in 2017, the lowest average among the 31 NFL players to top 600 rushing yards. The 30-year-old had a pair of 100-yard games in the second half of the season but totaled just 172 yards in his other six games to close out the regular season.
Stewart set franchise records for a running back with 47 catches for 413 yards in 2011 but totaled 81 catches for 593 yards over the past six seasons. This past season, rookie running back Christian McCaffrey amassed 80 catches for 851 yards. McCaffrey also averaged 3.7 yards per carry.
View photos of Panthers running back Jonathan Stewart during his football career.