Carolina Panthers RB DeAngelo Williams is set to return to action next week, having missed his team's previous two games with a thigh injury.
The news comes just at the right time, as both Jonathan Stewart and Mike Tolbert are the latest Panthers' backs to go down with injuries. Stewart suffered a sprained knee in last night's 37-19 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers, while Tolbert sustained a hairline fracture to his right leg. The pair had combined for 55 yards gained on 11 carries, with Stewart handling the brunt of the work in Williams' absence.
Today, coach Ron Rivera expressed confidence that Williams would be available for the team's week 4 matchup against the Baltimore Ravens, and the veteran will be needed as the Panthers' backfield is suddenly short of bodies. Reserve Fozzy Whittaker was another inactive for last night's game having battled a thigh injury of his own throughout the week. Williams likely could have played in an emergency scenario, but the Panthers wisely chose to err on the side of caution, taking a similar stance to their approach with QB Cam Newton, who missed week 1 with a rib injury he suffered in the preseason. DeAngelo Williams is set for a timely return, as both Jonathan Stewart and Mike Tolbert are set to miss at least 1 game.
Even if Williams is able to play next weekend, it is likely that Carolina will entertain the thought of bringing in a veteran free agent back to add to the mix. Both Stewart and Tolbert will likely be sidelined at least a game, if not more, leaving only Williams, Whittaker and former practice squad player Darrin Reaves as available options.
The team traded Kenjon Barner to Philadelphia last month, but the former Oregon man ultimately landed on the Eagles' reserve/injured list before being waived with an injury settlement. Barner knows the Panthers' system, but fits the profile of a return man and a scat back, rather than a potential every-down mail carrier in the mold of a Williams or Stewart.
Some other notable veteran free agent tailbacks currently on the street include the likes of BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Tashard Choice, Michael Bush, Brian Leonard, La'Rod Stephens-Howling and Mikel Leshoure.
Look for Carolina to bring in at least a couple of players for a workout as soon as today.
Meanwhile, in regards to DeAngelo Williams' expected return, the veteran could be a decent fantasy option for week 4, though he will be facing a stout Ravens defense that is surrendering just under 90 yards per game on the ground. Nevertheless, it is looking likely that Carolina will have to ride Williams hard against the Ravens next week, even if they do elect to sign another back. With Carolina's receiving corps also knicked up, Williams could stand to see added work in the passing game.
If you are in need of a RB3 or FLEX option heading into week 4, DeAngelo Williams could be worth a look. Keep an eye on the transaction wire to see if the Panthers do, indeed, opt to bring in a free agent off the street. Even if they do, Williams should still have the opportunity to absorb quite the workload heading into week 4.