Magic Eight Ball...Will the Carolina Panthers?...

I know you’re thinking, this is ridiculous. Who asks Magic Eight Ball anything and takes it seriously?

Well, why not? After all, media speculation and rumors about various goings-on in the Carolina Panthersorganization have run rampant like a wildfire, so I’ll take this time to consult an inanimate object about what the future may hold for the Panthers in this 2010 offseason.

In times throughout history, who hasn’t thought to consult the Magic Eight Ball?

I’m sure most of you know what the Magic Eight Ball is, but there may be a few readers who aren’t familiar with what it is, as I haven’t seen one in a long time, myself.

Magic Eight Ball was invented in 1946, so it’s been around for a long time. Basically, it’s a plastic ball filled with a dark blue liquid. Inside the ball, floating around in the liquid is a 20-sided die, with 20 different responses.

To do this, I hold the ball with the “8” facing me. I will ask it a question, and once I’ve asked my question pertaining to the Panthers, I will turn the ball so that the “8” is facing the ground and the viewer window is facing me. Then the Eight Ball will give me it’s answer.

Now the thing about this is, it is all in fun, but you may come back here later in the offseason and see if the Magic Eight Ball gave us any insight to the Panthers’ future!

I’ll start with something easy. I don’t want to get too deep or specific right away. So we’ll go with a question to get it warmed up.

Cat Crave: “Magic Eight Ball, is the year 2010?”

Magic 8 Ball: “You may rely on it.”

Alright, that was a good warm-up for our Magic Eight Ball. Today I will ask Magic 8 Ball three questions that have been weighing heavily on Panthers fans’ minds.

The topic most speculated on so far this offseason, and even since last offseason is the status of head coach John Fox, and whether or not he will return in 2010.

Fox has been linked to head coaching positions with the Cleveland Browns, Buffalo Bills, Seattle Seahawks, and New York Giants.

After the Panthers’ win over the New Orleans Saints, which was also the last game the Panthers play until next season, Fox was non-committal and curt with the media in regards to his future as head coach of the Panthers.

I understand that too though. It’s frustrating to be hounded with questions regarding your future after an emotional, albeit meaningless win.

Fox’s biggest blunder however, was keeping veteran quarterback Jake Delhomme in as the starter for three-quarters of the season.

I appreciate and respect Fox for having a player’s back, but in the end this is about winning. Trust and loyalty are good, but both can hurt you in the longrun, if that trust and loyalty is blind. Fox’s decision was fueled more by emotion and faith, than reason and logic.

Fox can be compared to a dog in this instance, in that no matter how much Delhomme hurt the team, Fox would come back and give him the chance to redeem himself. A sort of tail-wagging-the-dog comparison, given that Fox had the authority to bench Jake but never did, nor would he have, had Delhomme not suffered an injury to his finger.

Interestingly, the Panthers did give Fox the opportunity to opt out of his contract in 2010, but since the Browns decided to keep Mangini, Buffalo isn’t a very attractive job or salary, Tom Coughlin is head coach of the Giants for at least one more season (if not two), and the Seahawks are on the verge of signing Pete Carroll as their new head man, it looks like there’s no other team right now willing to divvy up a one-year salary better than $6.5 million.

The playcalling was also questionable at times, but not that didn’t get the fans fired up nearly as much as keeping Delhomme in down the stretch of the regular season.

So here’s my first real question to Magic 8 Ball…

Cat Crave: “Magic Eight Ball, will John Fox be the head coach of the Carolina Panthers in 2010?

Magic 8 Ball: “Outlook Good.”

Okay, but that’s only scratched the surface. Let’s dig a little deeper and see what we come up with.

Cat Crave: “Magic Eight Ball, will John Fox be given a contract extension to remain head coach of the Carolina Panthers after the 2010 season?”

Magic 8 Ball: “Most likely.”

So, given that Foxy will coach the Panthers in 2010 and he’ll likely receive a contract extension during the season, I won’t follow that up with anymore on that topic.

The next subject of equally great amounts of speculation is the future of defensive end Julius Peppers with the Panthers.

There are a few different possibilities surrounding the future of Peppers, whether he’s in Carolina or playing somewhere else.

First we’ll look at if he stays in a Panthers uniform next season, based on a long-term contract agreement with the Panthers. In order to do this, quite obviously the Panthers have to make him or his agent, Carl Carey, an offer.

Then quite possibly, Carey will make a counter-offer. Who knows how much this could go back and forth. Perhaps it won’t. The Panthers might make upwards of two or three offers and that’s it.

Let’s say Peppers accepts an offer. Well, that’s what the majority of Panthers fans want. If only it was that easy.

Another (dangerous/risky) scenario Part One, is Carolina places the franchise tag on Peppers for about $20.1 million. One of two things can happen in this scenario: Peppers can sign and agree to stay in Carolina–putting a sizable dent in the salary cap, thus making it a fairly unfeasible option–or the Panthers can try to trade Peppers away for compensation of some kind. The question is, who wants to pay Peppers that kind of salary?

Here’s Part Two: Without a Collective Bargaining Agreement, the Panthers could place the franchise tag on Peppers and it won’t count against a salary cap. But since the Panthers are a small market team, it could hurt them from a depth standpoint, in terms of who they can afford to keep.

However, they could also opt to trade him. Again, even in an uncapped year, who will want to pick up that hefty contract?

Without a CBA in place, there are restrictions on the final eight teams in the playoffs (Dallas, San Diego, Arizona, NY Jets, Baltimore, Minnesota, New Orleans, or Indianapolis) as to who they can sign in free agency. In order to acquire Peppers, they would have to waive or trade a player/s before they can move on any free agent/s.

So, this brings about the third and probably most unpopular option. The Panthers allow Peppers to walk, and move on from there to see what free agency and the draft holds, with their remaining defensive ends. Not my first choice, but it could come to that.

Now it’s time to see what Magic Eight Ball predicts.

Cat Crave: “Will the Carolina Panthers and Julius Peppers reach an agreement on a long-term contract?”

Magic 8 Ball: “Outlook good.”

Wow, this seems to be going a little too easy. But, that’s what Magic Eight Ball has predicted, so we’ll roll with it. I’m very happy I didn’t have to go into further questioning on that topic.

Which brings us to our last of the three big topics: Jake Delhomme.

We know the story of the Panthers’ emotional leader and the disastrous end to the 2008 season with a loss suffered at the hands of the Arizona Cardinals. The Panthers, commonly known as the Cardiac Cats over the years, since their Super Bowl season in 2003 looked more like catatonic cats on that fateful night.

2009 wasn’t much better for Delhomme. He struggled a lot, though his downfall wasn’t his fault all the time, he still had some bad games. I’ll say that of the 18 interceptions he threw this season, 10 were on him. Maybe I’m being generous, but I do recall at least five or six that could be blamed on any receiver not making the effort to lift their arms up to above shoulder level, or running the wrong routes because they thought it was a good idea.

Well, after suffering the broken finger during the game at the New York Jets, backup quarterback Matt Moore took over the quarterback duties, and seemed to breathe new life into a team that was floundering with Delhomme under center.

Moore finished with an overall quarterback rating of 104 and change. He guided the team to a 4-1 finish, and only threw one pick in the five games he started.

So while I expect to see him back in Carolina (Moore is a restricted free agent) and a heavy favorite as the starting quarterback, there’s something about Delhomme that cannot be forgotten.

To refresh your memory, Delhomme is guaranteed to make $12.67 million, whether the team keeps him or releases him. So it only makes financial sense to keep him. Maybe after this year, the Panthers might consider releasing him, but look for Jake to be on the roster for at least one more season.

Regardless of Moore’s strong finish to the 2009 season, I am going to tempt fate on this next line of questions in regards to jake Delhomme.

Cat Crave: “Will Jake Delhomme be with the Carolina Panthers in 2010?”

Magic 8 Ball: “Outlook good.”

Alright, it would seem that Magic Eight Ball is in positive spirits tonight. Let’s ask it another question.

Cat Crave: “Magic Eight Ball, will Jake Delhomme be the starting quarterback for the Panthers in 2010?”

Magic 8 Ball: “My reply is no.”

So, either look for Matt Moore to be the starting quarterback for the Panthers, or to see who Carolina might bring in during free agency or from the draft.

Let’s not forget too that Josh McCown, Hunter Cantwell, and A.J. Feeley are still on the roster, although Feeley is a free agent this offseason.

So there is the Panthers’ three biggest questions answered by the Magic Eight Ball in short, sweet, succession. No hype, no hoopla. No speculation. Cut and dry.

Cat Crave: “Thank you, Magic Eight Ball.”

Make sure to check back here during the offseason, and into the start of the 2010 season to see how many of Magic Eight Ball’s predictions become fact.

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Tags: Arizona Cardinals Baltimore Ravens Buffalo Bills Cardiac Cats Carl Carey Carolina Panthers Cat Crave CBA Cleveland Browns Collective Bargaining Agreement Dallas Cowboys Indianapolis Colts Jake Delhomme John Fox Julius Peppers Magic 8 Ball Magic Eight Ball Matt Moore Minnesot Vikings New Orleans Saints New York Giants New York Jets Pete Carroll San Diego Chargers Seattle Seahawks

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