Posted: March 4, 2010, 10:39 PM ; Updated: March 5, 2010, 11:52 AM
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) -- The Carolina Panthers cut Jake Delhomme late Thursday, just over a year after they gave him a lucrative contract extension only to watch him have his worst season as a pro.
Delhomme's agent, Rick Smith, confirmed the move and said Delhomme would wait until Friday to talk to reporters. It signals 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 Carolina to the Super Bowl.
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 saves $5 million in payroll and further depletes the defensive line and sheds even more payroll after the decision not to place the franchise tag on defensive end Julius Peppers.
Cutting Delhomme, however, is a major about-face for the organization.
Despite committing six turnovers in a playoff loss to Arizona to end the 2008 season, Hurney and coach John Fox were so committed to Delhomme they gave him a new deal in which he's still owed more than $12.5 million in guaranteed money.
Delhomme had no legitimate competition in training camp, but then had a miserable 2009 season. After throwing a career-high 18 interceptions, Delhomme was sidelined with a broken finger.
Moore came on and had eight touchdown passes and only two interceptions as Carolina won four of its final five games. The Panthers on Wednesday gave him the highest restricted free-agent tender of $3.043 million for one season.
Now the 35-year-old Delhomme is out of work, ending his career in Carolina with a 58-40 record as a starter that included a trip to the Super Bowl and an appearance in the NFC championship game after the 2005 season.
Delhomme holds almost every team passing record, but cutting him in a season without a salary cap will save some of the hit his contract will have in future years should the cap return.
Finances also played a decision for Lewis, who was let go a week after the Panthers sided against giving Peppers more than $20 million with the franchise tag.
"My cap number was a little high, about $5 million. Anything can happen in that situation," Lewis said. "With all of this stuff going with the CBA, I tried to be realistic. But I thought it was possible."
The 32-year-old Lewis had 41 tackles and a half sack in 16 starts last season as he played with numerous other tackles in Carolina's banged-up line. Lewis had 48 tackles and 3 1/2 sacks in 2008, the first year he replaced Kris Jenkins as a starter.
Lewis was signed to a contract extension before the 2008 season, but the deal was restructured last offseason to clear salary-cap space. There was a clause that called for the contract to revert to its old terms if a large bonus wasn't paid this spring. Lewis would have been due $4 million this season and a $1 million roster bonus.
"Coach Fox said it was more of an economic deal. He said it wasn't about the way I played," Lewis said. "I feel like I had a good season. The only thing I didn't do was that my sack numbers were down."
The move leaves Carolina with no starters from the line that ended last season. Peppers, Tyler Brayton and Hollis Thomas are unrestricted free agents.
It points to Carolina turning to young players despite there being no salary cap next season in the final year of the collective bargaining agreement.
The Panthers offered tenders to restricted free agents Louis Leonard and Tank Tyler on Wednesday, and signed fellow defensive tackle Ed Johnson last month. They also have high hopes for defensive ends Everette Brown and Charles Johnson.
The Panthers will also likely need to sign or draft a quarterback to pair with Moore.
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