CHARLOTTE -- The Carolina Panthers cut their all-time leading rusher Thursday, after finding out for the second straight year no one else wanted him.
The Panthers released running back DeShaun Foster, saving themselves $4.75 million worth of salary cap space, which they needed after placing the franchise tag on right tackle Jordan Gross.
They had tried to move him in recent weeks, just as they did last offseason. But with one year left on his contract at an unattractive base salary ($4.75 million) and a rich draft and free-agent class at his position, no one was willing to part with anything for him.
"We weren't able to get a trade struck, so we expressed to DeShaun that we were going in a different direction," Panthers general manager Marty Hurney said.
In the short term, that means DeAngelo Williams, their 2006 first-round pick who's served as understudy the last two seasons, will take over the starting job.
Williams gained 717 yards on 144 carries (5.0 per) last season, nearly catching Foster's 876 yards on 247 tries (3.5 per). But while Williams had the advantage of late attempts -- after Foster did most of the early work -- he's going to have to carry more of a burden now.
"Obviously, he's going to be a guy we're going to rely on," Hurney said of Williams.
Of course, it's just as obvious they're going to have to get another guy. With plenty of options before them, it seems reasonable they'll either find a mid-level free agent or tap into one of the deepest positions in this year's draft.
Foster leaves after six years and 3,336 yards, the most of any Panthers back.
He also authored some of the most memorable runs in franchise history, from his bulldozer act in Philadelphia during the 2003 playoffs to his first professional carry, when he stiff-armed Hall of Fame cornerback Darrell Green for a touchdown in a preseason game.
"DeShaun had the ability to make big plays in big games and always gave his best regardless of his role," Panthers coach John Fox said in a statement released by the team. "He never complained and was a professional in every sense of the word. We wish nothing but the best for DeShaun."
His problem was that there weren't enough of the highlights to balance out the raw numbers of fumbles and yards. For all his talent, he still never reached 1,000 yards in any season and frustrated his coaches and teammates by putting the ball on the ground.
Still, he created a loyal following among the coaching staff for all the small things -- his blocking, his leadership, the way he worked back from injuries and played hurt. It was telling that when owner Jerry Richardson called up the leaders prior to last season, Foster was there among the obvious names such as Steve Smith and Julius Peppers.
"This was a hard decision," Hurney said. "The way he played, the type of person he was, the way he was in the locker room, ... he means so much to us."
Fox and Hurney are in Indianapolis for the scouting combine, where they could meet with former Atlanta tight end Alge Crumpler in the next few days. Crumpler is going there so he can meet with the multiple teams interested in him, a list which includes the Panthers if he's well. Knee problems limited Crumpler last year.