San Diego Chargers running back Mike Tolbert (35) runs the ball during the second quarter against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-US PRESSWIRE

Panthers sign running back Mike Tolbert; Jonathan Stewart's future in question


Jason La Canfora is reporting that the Carolina Panthers have secured a four-year contract with free agent running back Mike Tolbert, formerly of the San Diego Chargers.

Last week the Tampa Bay Buccaneers signed wide receiver Vincent Jackson away from the Chargers, and the years before that it was the Saints who struck when they were able to land running back Darren Sproles.

Tolbert, a bruiser all-purpose running back, catches the ball out of the backfield as good or better than just about anyone in the league.

He had 490 yards rushing, and 433 yards receiving on 54 catches last season, scoring 10 touchdowns while splitting time behind Ryan Mathews.

Over the last two seasons Tolbert has developed into the Chargers premier red-zone threat, scoring a combined 21 rushing and receiving touchdowns, a role he is likely to reprise with the Panthers.

Tolbert was undrafted free agent in 2008 spending the last four seasons with San Diego.

His signing by the Carolina seems a confusing one, as the Panthers have running backs DeAngelo Williams, Jonathan Stewart, and Mike Goodson currently on the roster.

While Williams will certainly by the teams starter in 2012, Stewart’s long term future with the Panthers seems to be in jeopardy now that the team has acquired Tolbert.

But the Panthers surely like Tolbert’s versatility as the 5-foot-9, 243-pound behemoth has played fullback at times.

Carolina may have no plans to move any running back, and Tolbert’s signing could be one to address depth.

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Tags: 2012 NFL Free Agency Carolina Panthers DeAngelo Williams Jonathan Stewart Mike Goodson Mike Tolbert NFL San Diego Chargers