Few men in the NFL today understand better what makes a modern quarterback than Cleveland Browns team president Mike Holmgren. From Steve Young to Brett Favre(notes) to Matt Hasselbeck(notes), the Big Show has proven the ability to take any sort of prospect, no matter how raw, and forge Pro Bowl fodder out of the initial ingredients. Holmgren has a master professor's understanding of the position, and can find hidden talent just about anywhere.
That said, his latest project could be a doozy. Adam Schefter's Twitter report that the Browns have signed former Panthers signal-caller Jake Delhomme(notes) to a two-year contract raises many questions. Holmgren just traded a late pick for Seneca Wallace(notes), his former backup in Seattle, and sent Derek Anderson(notes) packing before he could bag a $2 million roster bonus. This leaves Brady Quinn(notes) as either the last man standing, or the odd man out. After all, Delhomme had a trip scheduled to New Orleans to discuss an obvious backup spot behind Drew Brees(notes), and you'd think the only reason for choosing the Browns over the Super Bowl champs would be the promise of competition for a starting job.
But does Holmgren have a starting-caliber quarterback in Delhomme? Are there any remnants of the player who helped the Panthers get to a Super Bowl and two NFC Championship games? In his last two seasons, Delhomme completed 424 passes in 735 attempts (a 57.7 completion percentage) for 5,303 yards, 23 touchdowns, and 30 picks. That doesn't include his most infamous game, a five-pick meltdown in the 2008 divisional round against the Arizona Cardinals. The Panthers inexplicably signed Delhomme to a five-year, $42.5 million contract in early 2009, and after one more season, cut him -- taking a hit for nearly $13 million in guaranteed money just so Delhomme wouldn't play there anymore. In his last game in a Panthers uniform, he threw four more interceptions and amassed only 130 yards against the Jets. Delhomme suffered a broken finger in that game, eventually went on injured reserve, and the Panthers turned to Matt Moore(notes) as their future.
We're not saying that Delhomme isn't a good guy -- his emotional press conference after the Panthers cut him proved his love for the game -- but it's tough to understand what Holmgren sees in Delhomme going forward. Then again, if anyone can bring any echoes of greatness out of him, Holmgren's the man to do it.
UPDATE: Holy cowpies. According to multiple reports, the contract pays Delhomme about $7 million in 2010. That's most certainly starter money. Now, here's the really interesting part, and a fairly valid reason why Panthers GM Marty Hurney should be job-hunting in the near future. According to Andrew Brandt of our friends at the National Football Post, Delhomme's contract didn't have an offset clause. The offset clause is a common part of player contracts; it protects teams from paying the full guaranteed value of contracts for former players that play on other teams. So, in this case, the $7 million from Cleveland would offset the obligation of over $12 million owed by Carolina. However, since nobody thought to insert that particular piece of language, the Panthers still have to pay the full amount, AND Delhomme gets his Cleveland money as well. That's right, folks -- a quarterback who threw eight touchdowns and 18 interceptions in 2009 will eventually get nineteen million dollars to both play, and not play, in 2010. Ain't America great?