Originally created 03/06/03

Panthers re-sign Peete, add Delhomme



CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The Carolina Panthers shored up their quarterback corps Wednesday, re-signing Rodney Peete and adding former New Orleans backup Jake Delhomme.

Delhomme, who agreed to a two-year deal worth $4 million, spent the past five seasons with the Saints. The Panthers hope he can be their quarterback of the future.

Delhomme also met with the Dallas Cowboys, but chose Carolina and the chance to compete for the starting job against Peete, who agreed to a three-year extension worth $4 million.

"I've been waiting my time because I truly felt I am ready to be a starter," Delhomme said by telephone from his home in Breaux Bridge, La.

"If I didn't, I would have stayed here. There is a comfort for me here. I am two hours away from home, the wife and I love the city and we have a newborn. But I am ready to be a starter."

A five-year NFL veteran, Delhomme has started just two games in his career, both in 1999. One was against the Panthers.

Over his career, Delhomme has completed 50 of 86 passes for 634 yards with three touchdowns and five interceptions.

But at 28, he could emerge as a longtime quarterback prospect for the Panthers, who hope that he is a late bloomer like Trent Green, Kurt Warner and other QBs who have blossomed after long stints on the bench.

"He's a good young quarterback and he's very accurate," general manager Marty Hurney said. "He seems to bring some veteran leadership skills and some intangibles. He just hasn't had much of a chance yet. But when he's played, we've liked what we've seen."

Peete took Carolina's starting job from Chris Weinke before the season opener, with mixed results. The Panthers ended the year 7-9 despite an eight-game losing streak midway through the season.

Although Peete had the best statistical year of his career, he's 37, not very mobile and definitely not a long-term solution to Carolina's quarterback woes.

Still, coach John Fox said Peete will be listed as the starter when Carolina holds its first spring minicamp.

"Rodney has shown what he means to this football team and has proven that he is a very solid quarterback," Fox said. "He is a leader in the locker room and won the respect of players and coaches last year."

The Panthers also think Delhomme has leadership qualities. He also has some mobility.

"I'm not going to be the fastest at the 40-yard dash, but I'm not a a statue in the pocket, either," Delhomme said. "I can move around pretty well and get away from the rush, and you have to be able to do that these days. So I think I am someone that kind of moves around and tries to play crafty."

Delhomme's signing drops Weinke, a former Heisman Trophy winner, to third on the depth chart with an unclear future in Carolina.

Weinke is 30 and has not yet developed the way the Panthers thought he would. He struggled in the 2002 preseason, and the Panthers gave the starting job to Peete one week before the season-opener.

Because of incentives earned in 2001, Weinke's salary-cap figure for 2003 is $3.5 million and he could be let go. Weinke said he hoped to talk with Fox this winter to discuss his future, but the coach said the two had yet to sit down.

"At some point Chris and I will sit down and talk, that's something that will happen," Fox said. "But right now Chris is under contract, he's on our football team and those are the facts."