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December 28, 2006

Odds sometimes interesting to ponder ...

Been getting e-mails from the promotional people at bodog.com all year and haven't paid much attention. But this week's odds e-mail had some interesting Panthers stuff. Not really sure what the numbers mean, but this is for entertainment purposes only:

Will John Fox be the Head Coach of the Carolina Panthers next season?

Yes -150

No +110

Will the Carolina Panthers make the playoffs this season?

Yes +300

No -500

Who will lead the NFL in Sacks by the end of the 2006-07 Regular Season?

Aaron Schobel (BUF) +205

Shawne Merriman (SD) +130

Jason Taylor (MIA) +325

Julius Peppers (CAR) +450

Aaron Kampman (GB) +160

Field (Any Other Player) +600

Coaching Odds

Will Dennis Green be the Head Coach of the Arizona Cardinals next season?

Yes +300

No -500

Will Tom Coughlin be the head coach of the NY Giants next season?

Yes -130

No -110

Will Jim Mora be the Head Coach of the Atlanta Falcons next season?

Yes +130

No -170

Will Bill Cowher be the Head Coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers next season?

Yes +200

No -300

Will Nick Saban be the Head Coach of the Miami Dolphins next season?

Yes -150

No +110

Will Romeo Crennel be the Head Coach of the Cleveland Browns next season?

Yes -110

No -130

Will Art Shell be the Head Coach of the Oakland Raiders next season?

Yes +150

No -200

Will Jon Gruden be the Head Coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers next season?

Yes Even

No -140

Will Joe Gibbs be the Head Coach of the Washington Redskins next season?

Yes Even

No -140

Wild Card Odds

Will the Giants make the playoffs?

Yes -140

No Even

Will the Atlanta Falcons make the playoffs this season?

Yes +1500

Will the Cincinnati Bengals make the playoffs this season?

Yes +300

No -500

Will the Jacksonville Jaguars make the playoffs this season?

Yes +1200

Will the Kansas City Chiefs make the playoffs this season?

Yes +1500

Will the New York Jets make the playoffs this season?

Yes -800

No +425

Will the St. Louis Rams make the playoffs this season?

Yes +700

Will the Denver Broncos make the playoffs this season?

Yes -800

No +425

Will the Tennessee Titans make the playoffs this season?

Yes +300

No -500

Which team will win the NFC East?

Philadelphia Eagles -400

Dallas Cowboys +250

Stat Race Odds

Who will lead the NFL in Receiving Yards at the end of the 2006-07 Regular Season?

Chad Johnson (CIN) +150

Marvin Harrison (IND) +140

Donald Driver (GB) +200

Reggie Wayne (IND) +280

Roy Williams (DET) +600

Miscellaneous Odds

Will Jay Cutler throw at least two TDs versus the San Francisco 49ers in week 17?

Note: Jay Cutler has thrown for at least 2 TDs in his first four NFL starts.

Yes -200

No +150

Will this week’s game versus the Bears be Brett Favre’s last regular season game in a Packers uniform?

Yes +110

No -150

Will Matt Millen still be the Detroit Lions president at the start of the 2007 NFL Season?

Yes -160

No +120

Posted by Observer Sports on December 28, 2006 at 05:48 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)

December 23, 2006

Panthers add to 2007 cap space

Once again, the Panthers have made an accounting move with an eye toward next season.

When the team promoted fullback Steven Jackson from the practice squad Wednesday, he was given a creative contract that includes $1.6 million in incentives. There's no chance he'll reach those incentives and the Panthers will receive a credit for next year's salary cap.

Jackson will earn about $32,000 for the final two games. The move leaves the Panthers with only about $600,000 for this year's cap.

But the focus clearly is on freeing up space for next year. The team did a similar deal with quarterback Brett Basanez several weeks ago. The deals for Jackson and Basanez will free up about $3.2 million for 2007.

Posted by Observer Sports on December 23, 2006 at 12:56 AM | Permalink | Comments (3)

December 20, 2006

Jenkins not only one shocked

Posting a story on Charlotte.com Tuesday afternoon that said defensive tackle Kris Jenkins was selected to the NFC Pro Bowl squad was one of the most nervous hours of my life. The NFL wasn’t announcing the rosters until it kicked off its dog-and-pony show on the NFL Network at 4 p.m.

But I got the tip at about 3 p.m., from a very reliable source. My first reaction was to make him swear that he wasn’t pulling my leg about Jenkins. After all, the big guy hasn’t exactly piled up numbers like he did in his two previous Pro Bowl seasons. The sources said this was no joke, so I went with the story.

My parents arrived for Christmas right about this time, and I spent the first hour of our visit pacing my living room because I still couldn’t quite believe Jenkins had made the Pro Bowl. Finally, NFL Network made it official.

Jenkins had made the Pro Bowl, along with defensive end Julius Peppers and receiver Steve Smith. The last two were expected, but Jenkins was not. He’d come back from two seasons of major injuries and shown a flash here and there, but nothing to make you think he’d be on his way to Hawaii.

So how did Jenkins get there? First, there were some injuries to prominent defensive tackles in the NFC. Second, name recognition can play a role, and the standard joke is that once you’ve been to a Pro Bowl, you’re locked in. That might have worked in Jenkins’ favor.

But you’ve got to believe there is some shock and anger around the league when a player without big production, who looks like his weight may have ballooned above 360 pounds, is chosen.

I ran all that logic by a scout I know well, and he said it was all part of the reason. Then, he threw out another theory:

"What, did he threaten to eat anybody that wouldn’t vote for him?’’ the scout asked. "If the Panthers don’t make the playoffs, he won’t play again until the Pro Bowl (Feb. 10), and he could be like 420 by then.’’

Yeah, make the jokes. There will be gripes from other cities where defensive tackles felt they were slighted.

But the only thing that really matters here is that Jenkins is in the Pro Bowl, like it or not.

Posted by Observer Sports on December 20, 2006 at 03:37 PM | Permalink | Comments (3)

December 17, 2006

Observations after Panthers' loss to Steelers

Wonder if we saw Mike Rucker play his last game for the Panthers? The knee injury looks serious, he wasn’t having a great year, he’s not getting any younger, he might be facing a lengthy rehab and he’s got a big salary-cap figure for next season.

FOX’s Terry Bradshaw speculated Jake Delhomme has played his last game (EVER) for the Panthers. Can’t quite buy that and wonder if Bradshaw’s source was only telling him Delhomme might be done for this season because of a thumb injury. Sure, Delhomme hasn’t had a great season, but the Panthers have significant money tied up in him. Seriously doubt the Panthers have already made a decision to part ways with Delhomme, because they don’t think about such matters until after the season. Besides, I’m not convinced it will come to that.

They might bring in a free agent to push Delhomme. But Bradshaw suggested the Panthers will draft a quarterback. That’s where the story loses credibility. Coach John Fox has long said he doesn’t believe in drafting quarterbacks early because it takes too long to develop players at that position.

Interesting locker-room scene: Fullback Brad Hoover, the ultimate company man, actually questioned the pride of some of his teammates. He had a very good point.

Question John Fox’s decision to go for a field goal instead of a touchdown at the end of the first half if you want. Like it really mattered in the grand scheme.

First thing the Panthers should do in the offseason: Blow up the offensive line. Move Jordan Gross back to right tackle, sign or draft a stud left tackle, hope Mike Wahle and Justin Hartwig can get healthy and sign one or two other linemen that can play in this league.

Defensive tackle Kris Jenkins might be the exception to an old NFL rule. Most players gradually lose weight as the season goes on. Jenkins seems to expand each week. It’s sometimes tough for defensive tackles to shine, but when’s the last time Jenkins or Maake Kemoeatu made a play that actually mattered?

Posted by Observer Sports on December 17, 2006 at 11:37 PM | Permalink | Comments (12)

December 16, 2006

8 Panthers under roster bonus scrutiny

Just looking ahead to next season, which soon might be the norm around here.

Barring a miracle, this season of disappointment could make for an interesting March. Teams tend to make personnel moves when things don’t go the way they want and the salary cap can play a huge role in those decisions.

The first week in March is always interesting because that’s when a lot of players have roster bonuses due. That often prompts teams to make financial moves to create cap room, and the Panthers are likely to play that game.

Other salary cap and performance issues also will come into play, and we’ll deal with those at another time. But there are eight Panthers with roster bonuses of particular interest.

1. Jake Delhomme: He has a $2 million roster bonus. There’s been some suggestion the Panthers may look for a new quarterback in the offseason. That might be a little drastic and it’s probably too soon to totally give up on Delhomme. The Panthers likely will pay Delhomme his roster bonus and keep him around. But they may bring in someone to challenge him or provide a solid alternative if he doesn’t bounce back from the funk he’s been in this season.

2. Dan Morgan: The middle linebacker is due a $2 million roster bonus and the chances of him seeing that are slim. Morgan has been out since the opener with lingering concussion problems. He’ll visit a doctor again in February and still has hopes of playing next season. The point could be moot if the doctor doesn’t clear Morgan and he’s forced to retire. If Morgan is cleared, the Panthers would have to view anything he does as a bonus and they can’t afford to put any more money into his pocket. Maybe they could restructure his contract. But they’re going to need to invest significant money to bring in a couple of new linebackers.

3. Mike Rucker: The defensive end has a $2.5 million roster bonus. Let’s face facts, Rucker isn’t getting any younger and he hasn’t had a great season. Nice guy and a great locker room presence, but that doesn’t always win out when it comes to business decisions.

4. Al Wallace: The veteran backup defensive end has a $500,000 roster bonus. Same story as Rucker, although the numbers aren’t as dramatic.

5. Damione Lewis: The backup defensive tackle has a $500,000 roster bonus. Lewis is a decent backup, but he hasn’t been spectacular. The Panthers may pay this bonus because it’s possible Lewis could challenge for a starting role next season. Starters Kris Jenkins and Maake Kemoeatu are making a ton of money and aren’t doing anything special. One of them could be gone.

6. Kris Mangum: The veteran tight end has a $100,000 bonus. Next season is the last on Mangum’s contract. He’s not getting any younger. But his bonus isn’t that dramatic. He’s versatile and a good locker room guy. Most importantly, none of the young tight ends have stepped forward.

7. Kevin McAdam: The backup safety has a $75,000 roster bonus. In the grand scheme, $75,000 isn’t that much. But McAdam has been nothing more than a special teams player and he hasn’t stood out in that area.

8. Chris Weinke: Has the possibility of earning a $2.7 million roster bonus. This may be the most interesting of all the roster bonuses. But it might be a moot point. Weinke’s bonus is contingent on him playing a certain amount of snaps and reaching certain statistical levels. The exact amount of snaps and the specifics on the statistical levels are not available. But Weinke probably won’t trigger the bonus. It’s likely this provision was put in his contract in case Delhomme had been hurt early in the year and Weinke had played most of the season and put up strong numbers.

Posted by Observer Sports on December 16, 2006 at 07:00 PM | Permalink | Comments (4)

December 12, 2006

Basanez deal to free 2007 salary cap space

We probably won’t know much on Jake Delhomme’s health until later in the week, but one thing is certain when it comes to quarterbacks and the Carolina Panthers: Rookie Brett Basanez, who was signed off the practice squad last week, is assured of a place on the 53-man roster for the rest of the season.

That was guaranteed when the Panthers signed Basanez to a very creative contract over the weekend. Very quietly, the Panthers signed Basanez to a deal for three games that, at least on paper, has the potential to be worth $1.6 million. Basanez also has a salary cap figure of $1.6 million for this year.

Realistically, Basanez never will see about $1.5 million of that money. The contract includes $1.5 million of incentives that Basanez has no chance to reach, even if he were to take every snap for the rest of the season.

If that doesn’t make a lot of sense, it shouldn’t because it’s merely a matter of creative accounting. What general manger Marty Hurney was doing was preparing for 2007. As long as Basanez stays on the roster the rest of the season, the Panthers will get a $1.5 million salary cap credit for 2007.

Other NFL teams have been doing similar deals in recent weeks to create room for next year. The Panthers are likely to do another deal or two like Basanez’s in the next week or two.

Posted by Observer staff on December 12, 2006 at 08:14 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)

December 11, 2006

Observations after Week 14

Random thoughts after the loss to the Giants:

You have to start wondering if the Panthers finish, say, 6-10 or 7-9, will there be a scapegoat? It’s not going to be head coach John Fox. But a team that began the season with Super Bowl expectations might make a move to shake things up. Maybe offensive coordinator Dan Henning retires. Or maybe the Panthers put the blame for the season on Henning or defensive coordinator Mike Trgovac and make a major move to their coaching staff.

Is there any player on the roster who is more on his way out of town than receiver Keary Colbert? Safety Colin Branch is running a solid second.

If the Panthers do anything this off-season, they should start with getting a return specialist. Get someone to handle punt and kickoff returns. Let Steve Smith and DeAngelo Williams concentrate solely on offense. And don’t ever put Chris Gamble back on punt returns again.

Jordan Gross has left no doubt that he’s better suited to play right tackle than left tackle. If there’s any doubt Travelle Wharton won’t be healthy enough to open next season at left tackle, the Panthers should make darn sure they get another left tackle capable of stepping into a starting role. They should have done that this season. I remember an assistant coach making a comment in training camp that he wished the Panthers had one more solid tackle. I didn’t think much of the comment at the time. But that lack of depth became a major issue once Wharton went down.

If you want to think about something positive in a year gone awry, start focusing on the draft. The Panthers could have a pretty early pick. They could use it in any one of several manners. In no particular order, I’m thinking middle linebacker, safety, cornerback, defensive end or offensive tackle. There might be some shouting for a quarterback and there’s no doubt the Panthers have to think long and hard about if Jake Delhomme’s still their guy. But if there’s a major move at quarterback, it won’t come in the draft. Fox firmly believes it takes too long to draft a quarterback and develop him. If the Panthers are going to make a move, they’ll bring in a free agent.

Posted by Observer Sports on December 11, 2006 at 01:19 AM | Permalink | Comments (13)

December 08, 2006

Panthers low on salary-cap space

When you look ahead to the off-season, the good news is the Panthers don't have many significant potential free agents. The bad news, especially if this season ends without a playoff berth, is they're not going to have a lot of room to make some much-needed changes. Some room will be created by unloading some high-priced underachievers. But, as it stands right now, the Panthers only have $3.4 million available in cap space for 2007. That ranks them 30th in the league. It also comes at a time when the cap will jump to $109 million and leave numerous teams with tons of money. Here's a look at where all the teams currently stand under next year's cap:

Rank/Team/Projected cap room

1/San Francisco/$42.1M






7 (tie)/Jacksonville/$32M

7/St. Louis/$32M

9/New England/$30.4M


11/New Orleans/$29.9M

12/Green Bay/$29.5M

13/New York Jets/$26.1M

14/San Diego/$24.6M

15/Tampa Bay/$24.2






21/New York Giants/$15.7M






27/Kansas City/$7M






Posted by Observer Sports on December 8, 2006 at 12:13 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)

December 06, 2006

No conspiracy: Jake is hurt, Weinke might start

The theory started floating as soon as quarterback Jake Delhomme sat out Wednesday’s practice: The Panthers can’t wait to get Chris Weinke on the field.

This, the theorists say, is a subtle way to bench Delhomme. This, the theorists say, will save the season.

I’m just sorry friend and colleague Tom Sorensen already used the line about theorists being people who live in their mother’s basement. Besides, those same people are the ones who say Dan Henning’s offense couldn’t confuse a Pee-Wee team.

The simple facts are: The Panthers aren’t that conniving; with their playoff hopes on the line, they have other things to worry about (unlike theorists) than making up injuries; Delhomme really is hurt; there’s a good chance Weinke will start.

Think about it. If coach John Fox and Henning were so sold on Weinke, wouldn’t they have given him a start sometime since Oct. 20, 2002?

Oh, one other thing: This is Fox and Henning we’re talking about. Even if a veteran isn’t playing well, they’ll still start him. Remember Stephen Davis? On the same day Fox revealed Delhomme’s injury, he said DeShaun Foster, if healthy Sunday, will start ahead of rookie DeAngelo Williams, who had a big game Monday night.

Posted by Observer Sports on December 6, 2006 at 06:21 PM | Permalink | Comments (7)

December 01, 2006

Gamble remains a starter - for now

A popular topic from e-mailers this week has been the Panthers secondary. There’s a theory that cornerback Chris Gamble should be the one benched instead of Ken Lucas. All I can say is, I agree, but it’s not going to happen.

At least not yet, anyway. Gamble’s a former first-round pick. Although he hasn’t played any better than Lucas, there might be some behind-the-scenes reasoning to this decision. The veteran Lucas might be better equipped to deal with the demotion. He might even be motivated to play better and get his spot back.

Gamble might not be able to react the same way. The Panthers want him to try to play through his slump. Benching him might end the possibility he’ll ever reach his potential.


Here’s the breakdown of what’s happened on Jake Delhomme’s incomplete passes this season, according to STATS:

Passes Attempted Complete Total Incomplete

367 218 149

Number / Pct of Incomp / Pct of Overall Attempts

Pass Dropped 18 / 12.1 / 4.9

Poor Throw 55 / 36.9 / 15.0

Pass Defensed 32 / 21.5 / 8.7

Pass Hit at Line 15 /10.1 / 4.1

Other 20 13.4 5.4

Intercepted 9 / 6.0 / 2.5


Here are the latest numbers on how often Panthers’ receivers have been the targets of passes and how many they’ve dropped, according to STATS:

Steve Smith 102 targets, 9 drops

Keyshawn Johnson 97 targets, 2 drops

Carter 37 targets, 1 drops

Colbert 12 targets, 0 drops

Posted by Observer Sports on December 1, 2006 at 11:43 PM | Permalink | Comments (20)