Stewart last draft choice to sign with Panthers

Updated: July 26, 2008, 9:49 AM ET
Associated Press

SPARTANBURG, S.C. -- The Carolina Panthers signed running back Jonathan Stewart to a five-year deal that includes $10.8 million in guaranteed money, putting all their draft picks under contract early Saturday before the team's first training camp practice.

Stewart came to terms on the deal that could be worth up to $20 million hours after fellow first-round pick Jeff Otah signed his contact late Friday. Both players were on the field for the team's opening practice Saturday morning.

"It was incredibly important for Jonathan and everyone involved to have him there for camp in time," Stewart's agent, Ben Dogra, said. "It's an important year for him, as well as the team, being his rookie year. We're all glad we were able to complete the deal."

To make room on the 80-man roster, the Panthers released running back Alex Haynes and linebacker Brandon Jamison.

Stewart, the 13th overall pick out of Oregon, is expected to compete for the starting running back job with last year's backup, DeAngelo Williams. The Panthers released last year's starter, DeShaun Foster, after struggling to get a consistent running game last season.

The 5-foot-10, 235-pound Stewart missed offseason workouts following toe surgery, but passed his physical and was cleared to practice.

The 6-6, 330-pound Otah, the 19th overall pick from Pittsburgh, is expected to start at right tackle as part of an overhaul of Carolina's offensive line. The Panthers will likely have different players starting at all five positions this season.

The deals mean the Panthers avoid a rookie holdout for a second straight year. First-round pick Jon Beason missed the first eight days of training camp last year in a dispute over how his bonus money would be distributed.

"There are no distractions, team-wise now," general manager Marty Hurney said. "Everybody is signed and it's a good way to start training camp."


Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press