It's not that they locked up either player long-term, it's that they way overpaid for each of them. Sure both you can certainly argue deserve market-value deals.
Williams got a 5-yr. $43 million with $23 million guaranteed at age 28. And now Stewart gets a 5-yr., $36.5 million extension with $22.5 million guaranteed at age 25.
I've read that Williams deal is structured so that the Panthers could cut him loose next year or the year after without problem. Even though Williams-Stewart are arguably the best 1-2 punch of RBs in the league and one could look at them in a combo as one really good RB, it makes no sense to allocate nearly $50 million in guaranteed money to a RB in this day and age in the NFL, especially when you have a really solid young QB.
I think running the football is going to be a key for the Panthers in the future. Cam Newton will work best in a play-action based vertical offense that has a steady ground game to go with WRs that can stretch the defense, thus making his decision making easier as well as minimizing his need to significantly improve his accuracy.
But this type of move pretty much negates the deal to keep WIlliams a year ago. Had the Panthers been smart, they would have let WIlliams walk last year (like to Denver), kept Mike Goodson, gotten an extra 3rd round compensatory pick, and if need be still signed someone like Mike Tolbert to supplement their ground game. Basically they should have been made the decision last July which one they were going to keep long-term and that should have been that.
This is why Marty Hurney is a mediocre GM. And it ultimately IMO is going to keep the Panthers from being a true contender in the future.
"Vincere scis, Hannibal, victoria uti nescis" -- Maharbal, 216 B.C.E.