Panthers interested in trading RB Foster, sources say

The Carolina Panthers are shopping running back DeShaun Foster for a trade, several sources around the league told ESPN.com on Thursday night.

Panthers general manager Marty Hurney declined comment as he does on all potential personnel moves. Foster was not available for comment and his agent Joby Branion did not immediately return a call.

There had been speculation that Foster, 28, could be a salary cap casualty, but it appears the Panthers believe they can get something in return for their leading rusher from last season. Foster is heading into the last season of a three-year, $14.5 million contract extension he signed in 2006 and he's scheduled to have a whopping $5.8 million salary cap figure in 2008.

The sources said several teams have expressed interest in Foster, but wouldn't specify which ones. If Foster has any say, he might end up with a team on the West Coast because he grew up in California. A combination of several injuries and having to play behind Stephen Davis early in his career have kept Foster from ever becoming the true feature back the Panthers thought they were getting when they selected him in the second round out of UCLA in 2002.

Foster played a 16-game season for the first time in his career in 2007 and had a career-high 247 carries, but averaged only 3.5 yards and scored three touchdowns. After struggling to run the ball with any consistency the last two seasons, the Panthers have pledged to have a more productive ground game in 2008.

It appears they believe they can do that without Foster. DeAngelo Williams, a first-round pick in 2006, has played behind Foster the last two seasons and has shown promise he can be a breakaway threat.

Williams got only 144 carries last season, but averaged 5.0 yards a carry with four rushing touchdowns and also caught 23 passes for 175 yards and a touchdown. There are some concerns about Williams, 5-foot-9 and 217 pounds, being able to perform as an every-down back, but the Panthers clearly would like to get him on the field more often than last year.

It's possible Carolina could look in free agency or the college draft to find a bigger back to complement Williams.

Pat Yasinskas covers the NFL for ESPN.com.