Williams agrees to five-year, $43M deal to stay with Panthers

The Carolina Panthers promised they'd be aggressive in free agency, and they stayed true to their word Wednesday.

In perhaps the wildest day of transactions in franchise history, running back DeAngelo Williams agreed to a five-year, $43 million contract, NFL Network insider Michael Lombardi reported, and linebackers James Anderson and Thomas Davis also agreed to five-year deals, people familiar with the deals told The Associated Press.

Williams, who's guaranteed $21 million in his new deal, also drew serious interest from the New York Giants and Denver Broncos, Lombardi reported, but the Panthers were able to keep their all-time leading rusher.

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The Panthers also agreed to terms with seven free agents, including kicker Olindo Mare, defensive tackle Ron Edwards, tight end Ben Hartsock, fullback Rick Brockel, defensive backs Cletis Gordan, Devon Hall and Kevin Payne. Free agents can't officially sign until Friday.

The addition of Mare signals the end of the John Kasay era in Panthers history. Carolina is expected on Thursday to release the only player remaining from the 1995 expansion roster.

Going after Mare over Kasay was due in part to the NFL's new rule that moved kickoffs up 5 yards to the 35-yard line. Mare has more leg strength than Kasay, who ranks eighth on the career NFL scoring list with 1,823 points.

Mare, who'll receive a four-year, $12 million contract, is just three years younger than Kasay, 41, but still has good leg strength and converted 73 of 83 field-goal attempts the last three years with the Seattle Seahawks.

But keeping the 28-year-old Williams was the big news. A Pro Bowl selection in 2009, Williams decided to stay in Carolina to play alongside best friend and fellow running back Jonathan Stewart. Williams said Monday night during an online chat that his goal was to retire as a Panther.

Williams posted back-to-back seasons of more than 1,100 rushing yards in 2008 and '09 before sustaining a season-ending foot sprain during Week 7 of the 2010 campaign. The Panthers held out hope that Williams would recover before the end of the season, but they eventually placed him on injured reserve in mid-November.

The flurry of moves came one day after defensive end Charles Johnsonagreed to a six-year, $72 million contact with the Panthers.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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