That homecoming we mentioned for Jonathan Stewart is apparently somewhat closer to reality.
The former superstar at Timberline High School in Lacey and then at Oregon, the Carolina Panthers’ career rushing leader who got cut by them last week, is making a free-agent visit to the Seahawks Thursday--among all else the team is up to. That is according to a report by Mike Garafolo by the league-owned NFL Network Thursday morning.
The Panthers saved $3.7 million against their 2018 salary cap by cutting the 30-year-old Stewart last week. That team’s 13th-overall pick in the 2008 draft was part of a salary purge in Carolina that has also resulted in the Panthers releasing safety Kurt Coleman and defensive end Charles Johnson.
Last week while at the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis, on the day Carolina released the 30-year-old Stewart, I examined how the 10-year veteran might fit in Seattle.
Yes, the NFL team that plays a hour up I-5 from where he was born and grew up needs a running back. Or three.
Stewart’s 7,755 yards rushing in 39 games for Timberline from 2001-04 remain a Washington high school record. He also had 105 touchdowns and was a 100-meter sprinter for the Blazers. He then chose Oregon over USC, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Nebraska, California--and seemingly every other top school that had a bag of footballs.
Stewart leaves Carolina as its career rushing leader with 7,318 yards. His 1,699 career rushing attempts are also the most in franchise history. His 58 career touchdowns are second in Panthers history. According to spotrac.com, Stewart earned $47.8 million in his 10 years with Carolina.
Would a Western Washington homecoming be viable?
Born at Madigan Army Medical Center on Fort Lewis, Stewart left the Puget Sound region as a young child as his father’s Army career took the family to Hawaii, California and Georgia. According to this 2013 story in Joint Base Lewis-McChord’s Northwest Guardian, Jonathan moved back to the South Sound when his dad got assigned back to Fort Lewis before Jonathan began first grade.
It would likely take not much more than the league veteran-minimum salary of $1,015,000 for Seattle to sign a player of Stewart’s tenure, with incentive bonuses based on yards rushing and games played. Far less than the more than $2.8 million the Seahawks guaranteed Eddie Lacy as a free agent this time last year--then got putrid results.
Seahawks coach Pete Carroll has already promised to return Seattle’s offense to the run in 2018, and to up the roster competition at running back.
No NFL team got less production from its backs in 2017 than the Seahawks did from theirs. Without Russell Wilson’s scrambling and team-leading rushing yards, the league’s 25th-ranked run offense last season would have been 32nd and last, by far.
“We have a real formula for how we win. We've been unable to incorporate a major aspect of that: running the football the way we want,” Carroll said at the start of this offseason.
The first step was re-making his coaching staff. Eight assistants from 2017 are gone. Six new ones have arrived, including new offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer, who has called played for a No.-1 ranked rushing offense with the New York Jets, new offensive line coach Mike Solari and defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr.
Could the next step be Jonathan Stewart coming home?