Carolina Panthers Release Jake Delhomme: Who Should Challenge Matt Moore?

Ben AikeyCorrespondent IMarch 5, 2010

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - NOVEMBER 29:  Jake Delhomme #17 of the Carolina Panthers passes against the New York Jets at Giants Stadium on November 29, 2009 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)
Nick Laham/Getty Images

The Carolina Panthers released quarterback Jake Delhomme yesterday, after arguably his worst year as a starter.

Let’s all have a moment of silence (or at least silent inner celebration) to commemorate the moment.

All things considered, Delhomme was, to this point, the best quarterback in franchise history. Say what you want about his erratic, devil-may-care playing style, but he led Carolina to two NFC Championship games and a Super Bowl. 

Not to mention the fact that he holds the record for the longest offensive play in Super Bowl history—an 85-yard touchdown pass to Muhsin Muhammad against New England in Super Bowl XXXVIII.

For all the good he did for the organization, I won’t ever be ashamed to call myself a Delhomme fan. I may have been critical at times, but you never forget a guy that leads you to a Super Bowl.

Enough waxing nostalgic. The Panthers tendered Matt Moore with a level four tender, meaning compensation for signing him would be a first-round and third-round draft pick, and that Moore will make about $3 million next year.

While he may have played well down the stretch last year in a time of need, I’m still not entirely sold on Moore being given the starting job, and it seems unlikely that will happen. The Panthers need to create competition for the starting quarterback role. Two options stand out as possible challengers for the starting job/quarterback of the future designation: Tony Pike and Dan LeFevour.

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Pike was on fire last season for Cincinnati. He threw for 2,520 yards, 29 touchdowns and only six interceptions for a Bearcat team that finished the regular season undefeated. Those are pretty solid stats as is, but the fact that he missed three regular season games makes them even more impressive.

He has great mechanics and confidence. If the Panthers want a true pocket passer with a strong arm (six of his eight regular season games included completions of 40-plus yards), Pike has to be strongly considered. Ranked by ESPN as the fourth-best quarterback in this year’s draft, Pike could be an absolute steal in the third round.

As good as Pike is, I’m even more impressed by Central Michigan’s four-year starter Dan LeFevour.

This kid has the wow factor. In his college career, he threw for 12,905 yards and 102 touchdowns—an average of more than 3,000 yards and 25 touchdowns per season, which would constitute franchise quarterback numbers in the NFL.

His arm strength is even better than Pike’s. In his four college seasons, LeFevour’s longest completions of each season went for 88, 76, 93 and 82 yards. You can chalk up a lot of that to yards after catch by the receiver, but it also means LeFevour can find the open man and read the play well enough to know he has a clear route to the end zone.

You’ll notice as well that as his college career went on, LeFevour was sacked less and less, while he completed a higher percentage of his passes. Last year, he completed almost 70 percent of his passes as the Chippewas posted a 12-2 record.

LeFevour is a threat on the ground as well as through the air. Last season, he rushed for more than 50 yards six times and accumulated 14 touchdowns.

What confuses me is why he’s only ranked the fifth-best quarterback in the draft. Sure, the MAC may not be the highest tier of college football competition, but consider some MAC quarterbacks that have hit it big in the pros in recent years: Byron Leftwich, Chad Pennington and Ben Roethlisberger.

The MAC is a dark horse for producing great quarterbacks, and LeFevour may be the next in line to become an NFL  Pro Bowler. I think he would be the best fit for the Panthers not only to challenge Matt Moore, but also to be a franchise quarterback for years to come.

What does everyone else think? Who do you want to see the Panthers draft or sign in free agency to take the reins as signal caller next year?