After the worst game of Jake Delhomme's 11-year NFL career came in an ugly playoff loss, the Carolina Panthers never wavered in saying he was still their quarterback for the long-term.
On Thursday, they proved it, giving Delhomme a five-year extension that NFL.com's Steve Wyche reports is worth $42.5 million, with $20 million guaranteed, and keeps the 34-year-old quarterback 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 move clears much-needed salary-cap space for Carolina, which is weighed down by defensive end Julius Peppers' franchise-tag tender that is worth $16.7 million over one year. Delhomme was scheduled to count for more than $10 million against the cap next season in the final year of his deal.
Delhomme's extension comes just over three months following his nightmare playoff performance. After a strong season following reconstructive elbow surgery the previous year, Delhomme threw five interceptions and lost a fumble in the Panthers' 33-13 loss to the Arizona Cardinals 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 receiving strong support from coach John Fox and general manager Marty Hurney, who have rebuffed suggestions that they looked for another quarterback. The Panthers are 54-33 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."
The Panthers signed Delhomme as a relatively unknown free agent from the New Orleans Saints after the 2002 season. After Rodney Peete struggled in the 2003 season opener, Delhomme replaced him at halftime, led Carolina to a comeback victory and remained the starter as the Panthers reached Super Bowl XXXVIII, which they lost to the New England Patriots.
Delhomme also led the Panthers to the playoffs in 2005 and last season. And while Delhomme 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," said Delhomme's agent, Rick Smith.
After the reconstructive surgery, Delhomme came back strong in 2008. He threw 15 touchdown passes and had 12 interceptions as the Panthers won the NFC South 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 clearly remains Carolina's starter ahead of Josh McCown and Matt Moore. The Panthers also have inquired about Buffalo Bills quarterback J.P. Losman, according to that team's Web site.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.