Indulge me, if you will, in some hometown talk for a moment or two. The Panthers tore up the final year of QB Jake Delhomme’s deal Friday and gave him a new five-year, $42.5 million deal with $20 million guaranteed. It’s an affirmation that Delhomme remains the Panthers’ quarterback for the forseeable future, despite his complete meltdown (five interceptions plus a lost fumble) in the playoffs vs. Arizona last season.
But it’s a move the Panthers had to make because of their ultra-tight salary cap situation caused by the massive $16.7 million franchise tag they have on Julius Peppers. Delhomme was slated to count $11 million against the ’09 cap, and the new deal knocks that number down into the $6 million range. That gives the Panthers enough room to make their draft picks this weekend, and even more to sign undrafted free agents and maybe even add a veteran or two. The Panthers have lost 3 backup offensive linemen this offseason, so a veteran hand there would be helpful. They also need depth on the defensive line.
The Panthers want to keep Peppers, although a trade is still possible this weekend (though probably not with New England, despite earlier reports). If it doesn’t happen by the end of the first round, though, Carolina begins a long process that will likely include a training camp holdout. The Panthers want to keep Peppers, and they say they’re willing to wait. But the tradeoff for reserving a chunk of cap space for Peppers has been letting other vets go. And now the tradeoff includes committing to Delhomme for another couple of years, at least.
Delhomme is 34, and his season last year on the whole was more good than bad. He’s not great, but he’s OK on the field, and if he can stay at that level for another couple of years, this deal will end up looking OK. (See how Delhomme compares to other current quarterbacks.) Delhomme is enough of a gambler to toss the ball up to Steve Smith and let the all-world receiver make a play, which is good. But Delhomme isn’t always consistent, and he had some alarmingly low percentage-completion games last season.
Probably Delhomme’s best asset is his personality. Teammates love him because he’s down to earth, humble, and loyal. He’s genuinely a good guy – even the media who covers him thinks so. That’s part of the reason the Panthers are willing to stick with him. Dumping him immediately after the Arizona debacle would have been an overreaction, but making alternate plans at quarterback for 2010 and beyond wouldn’t have been. So we won’t know till then if this deal is a big mistake.
Until then, Delhomme should thank Peppers for the new $20 million guarantee he just got.