CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The Carolina Panthers cut longtime starting quarterback Jake Delhomme late Thursday, just over one year after they gave him a five-year, $42.5 million contract extension, only to watch him have his worst NFL season.
Delhomme's agent, Rick Smith, confirmed the move and said the quarterback would wait until Friday to address reporters. It signals that the Panthers intend to go with Matt Moore or someone new at quarterback for the first time since Delhomme burst onto the scene in 2003 and led the team to the Super Bowl.
Panthers general manager Marty Hurney didn't respond to numerous messages seeking comment.
The Panthers also released veteran defensive tackle Damione Lewis on Thursday in a move that sheds another $5 million in payroll after the decision not to place the franchise tag on defensive end Julius Peppers.
However, cutting Delhomme is a major about-face for the organization.
Despite Delhomme committing six turnovers during a playoff loss to the Arizona Cardinals to end the 2008 season, Hurney and coach John Fox were so committed to the quarterback that they gave him a new deal in which he's still owed more than $12.5 million in guaranteed money.
Delhomme received no legitimate competition in training camp, then had a miserable 2009 season. It started with another six-turnover performance during a season-opening loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, and Delhomme threw a career-high 18 interceptions in 11 games before being sidelined with a broken finger.
Moore came on and had eight touchdown passes and just two interceptions as Carolina won four of its final five games. On Wednesday, the Panthers gave Moore the highest restricted free-agent tender of $3.043 million for one season.
Now Delhomme is out of work, ending his career in Carolina with a 58-40 record as a starter, including a trip to the Super Bowl and an appearance in the NFC Championship Game after the 2005 season. Delhomme, 35, holds almost every Panthers passing record, but cutting him during a season without a salary cap will save some of the hit that his contract will have in future years should the cap return.
The Panthers likely will need to sign or draft a quarterback to go with Moore. But while Eagles quarterback Michael Vick said on an Atlanta radio station this week that he'd like to play for Carolina, the team never considered him before last season. Panthers owner Jerry Richardson has shied away from acquiring players with a history of off-field trouble such as Vick.
Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press