NFL: Delhomme gets five-year extension
By Mike Cranston
CHARLOTTE ó After the worst game of Jake Delhomme’s career came in an ugly playoff loss, the Carolina Panthers never wavered that he was still their quarterback for the long term.
On Thursday, they proved it, giving Delhomme a five-year, $42.5 million extension that keeps the 34-year-old under contract through the 2014 season.
“It’s all about being able to know that I can finish my career here in Carolina,” Delhomme said. “That’s what I’ve wanted, all I’ve ever wanted.”
The deal includes $20 million in guaranteed money and clears much needed salary-cap space for Carolina. Delhomme was to count for more than $10 million under the cap next season in the final year of his deal. The Panthers’ cap is weighed down by Julius Peppers’ one-year tender under the franchise tag that is worth $16.7 million and has prevented any offseason signings.
Delhomme’s extension comes just over three months following his nightmare performance. After a strong season following reconstructive elbow surgery the year before, Delhomme threw five interceptions and lost a fumble in Carolina’s 33-13 loss to Arizona in the NFC divisional playoffs.
“We all know last year was a good year that ended terribly,” Delhomme said. “Nobody was more disappointed than I was for not putting my team in a position to win. That’s something I’ve always tried to pride myself on. … Why it happened I don’t know. But it did, and certainly things weren’t good for a while.”
Delhomme has been taking part in Carolina’s offseason conditioning program this month while getting strong support from coach John Fox and general manager Marty Hurney, who have rebuffed suggestions they look for another QB.
The Panthers are 54-33 in the regular season and playoffs in the past six seasons when Delhomme starts and 6-10 when he doesn’t.
“He has been a leader on the field, is a talented quarterback, is a perfect fit for our team and was a big reason we were able to win the NFC South last year,” Hurney said. “He has also always represented the team in the highest manner and earned the respect of everyone throughout the organization.”
Delhomme was signed as a relatively unknown free agent from New Orleans after the 2002 season. After Rodney Peete struggled in the 2003 season opener, Delhomme replaced him at halftime, led Carolina to a comeback win and remained the starter as the Panthers reached the Super Bowl.
Delhomme also led the Panthers to the playoffs in 2005 and last season. And while he receives criticism for his unorthodox style and fiery temper, the Panthers struggled mightily without him in 2007, when Delhomme needed ligament-replacement surgery in his right elbow.
“If anybody wants to go back to ’07, have fun,” his agent, Rick Smith said.
After the reconstructive surgery, Delhomme came back strong in 2008. He threw 15 touchdown passes and had 12 interceptions as the Panthers won the division title before everything went wrong against the Cardinals.
“It was just one of those days where I didn’t see the field well,” Delhomme said. “It did hurt. That’s part of it. You learn from it. I don’t know any other way to put it. It’s not something that you sweep under the rug.”
But with this rich deal, Delhomme will clearly remain Carolina’s starter ahead of Josh McCown and Matt Moore.