Panthers retain QB with $12M signing bonus

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The Carolina Panthers rewarded quarterback Jake Delhomme for his Super Bowl season Thursday by giving him a five-year, $38 million contract extension that included a $12 million signing bonus.

Delhomme was entering the final year of a two-year, $4 million contract. He was scheduled to make a base salary of $1.37 million. This deal will keep him in Carolina until 2009.

The 29-year-old Delhomme came to the Panthers with only two career starts, for the New Orleans Saints. Delhomme relieved Rodney Peete at halftime against Jacksonville
in the first game of the season and led the team back from a
17-point deficit to win 24-23.

He started 19 straight games after that, leading the Panthers to
playoff victories over Dallas, St. Louis and Philadelphia.

Then he threw for 323 yards and three touchdowns in a
last-minute 32-29 loss to the New England Patriots in the Super

Delhomme completed 266 of 449 passes for 3,219 yards and 19 touchdowns.

"It's kind of a dream come true," Delhomme said after
Thursday's practice. "When you're coming out of college undrafted,
you're just trying to hang on by a thread. Luckily I did. It's
funny how things work out."

The deal came on the final day of the team's three-week

"Everybody in the league is trying identify their quarterback
and when you identify that guy, getting him locked up for the
future is paramount to your success," Panthers head coach John Fox
said. "I'm glad it happened before we got away from here."

Delhomme was also relieved to get the deal done.

"I've been around guys who haven't performed their best with a
contract lingering over their heads," Delhomme said. "Having that
behind me, now it's just total football when training camp

Like a lot of former backups who came out of nowhere to get starting jobs, Delhomme used NFL Europe as a proving ground. He played for Amsterdam in 1998 and Frankfurt in 1999. His 67.3 completion percentage for Frankfurt in 1999 put him on the map as a potential quarterback of the future.

The Panthers also used the offseason to wrap up Delhomme's
favorite target, receiver Steve Smith, with a six-year, $28 million

John Clayton, senior writer for ESPN.com, and information from The Associated Press contributed to this report.