The Carolina Panthers will bring back tackle Daryl Williams on a one-year contract in 2019, multiple sources told the Observer on Wednesday.
A league source said the deal is worth about $6 million.
Williams, 26, tested free agency during the legal tampering period after spending the 2018 season on injured reserve while recovering from a knee injury.
Because the Panthers are limited in cap space this spring and Williams played well before his injury, it was thought that he would sign a longer-term deal elsewhere.
According to a source familiar with the matter, Williams spoke to multiple teams but none of those possible contracts were quite right for him, especially in light of his knee injury.
But the one-year deal in Carolina, called a “prove-it” deal, became tempting because it gives Williams the chance this season to show teams that he will be healthy enough for a larger, longer-term contract in 2020 — and because he and his wife have grown to love the city of Charlotte, he said.
“It feels good. It feels good to be back home in my second home,” Williams told the Observer over the phone.
“Checking the market, stuff like that, me and my wife just thought it was best to be back somewhere we were familiar with.”
Williams, who was selected by Carolina in the fourth round of the 2015 NFL draft out of Oklahoma, started at right tackle in 2017 and earned second-team All-Pro honors that season.
Ahead of the 2018 season, Williams injured his knee in training camp, rehabilitated for one month and then suffered a separate knee injury in Week 1 against Dallas that required surgery.
Williams said his rehabilitation has gone well.
“I feel really good,” he said. “I’ve been working out, training and all of that. I can’t wait to get back on the field.”
When healthy, Williams offers Carolina flexibility in an uncertain time for the left side of its line.
Starting left tackle Matt Kalil spent the 2018 season on injured reserve with a knee injury. The Panthers have the option to designate Kalil as a post-June 1 cut, which would save them about $7.5 million in 2019 cap space but still leave them with almost $15 million in dead money.
Head coach Ron Rivera was confident in Kalil’s future with the Panthers while speaking at the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis last month — but re-signing Williams might now be a new variable in the equation.
Williams has played the bulk of his career at right tackle, but has some experience at left tackle as well.
So does third-year offensive lineman Taylor Moton, who filled in for Kalil for a game when he went on injured reserve. Moton started at right tackle in 2018, with Williams on injured reserve, and played well.
Even with the uncertainty regarding Kalil’s future with the team, the Panthers’ offensive line rebuild is starting to take shape.
The Panthers could to play 2018 starter Greg Van Roten at left guard in 2019, or play backup center Tyler Larsen at the position. They could draft an interior offensive lineman for the role — though this coaching staff does not have a history of starting rookie offensive linemen.
On Tuesday, a league source told the Observer that the Panthers had agreed to terms with former Denver Broncos center Matt Paradis. According to the source, the three-year deal is worth $27 million. Paradis became able to sign the contract at 4 p.m. on Wednesday, the start of the new league year.
He will have to pass a physical first. Paradis broke his fibula last October and had double-hip surgery prior to the 2016 season. He recently told NFL Network that he’ll be cleared to play in June.
But prior to breaking his leg, Paradis had not missed a regular-season snap for Denver since becoming the Broncos’ starting center in 2015.
When cleared, Paradis will start at center for the Panthers, becoming an anchor point on an offensive line that said goodbye to retiring longtime center Ryan Kalil after the 2018 season.