Panthers waive career rushing leader Stewart

Running back joins Charles Johnson, Kurt Coleman on open market

Panthers running back Jonathan Stewart runs the ball against Lions defensive end Akeem Spence during their game at Ford Field. (Raj Mehta / USA TODAY Sports)

The Carolina Panthers released running back Jonathan Stewart, the franchise’s all-time leading rusher, on Wednesday.

The Panthers selected Stewart, 30, with the 13th pick of the first round of 2008 NFL Draft. He has 7,318 career rushing yards on 1,699 carries, also a franchise record. Stewart ran for 680 yards on a career-low 3.4 yards per attempt in the 2017 season.

“Jonathan played the game the way you want. He brought an element of toughness as a runner that set the tempo for our team,” Panthers coach Ron Rivera said in a statement from the team. “He is a great pro, and I appreciate who he is as a young man and thank him for the contribution he made.”

Combined with the release of defensive end Charles Johnson and safety Kurt Coleman a day earlier, Stewart’s departure gives the Panthers significant salary cap relief.

Stewart had a cap figure of $5.2 million and he was deemed expendable with 2017 first-rounder Christian McCaffrey viewed as the future at the position, thus saving $3.7 million on the salary cap.

General manager Marty Hurney cleared more than $9.6 million in salary cap space this week, giving the Panthers nearly $30 million in cap space to begin the process of rebuilding the 2018 roster.