The thing about contracts... it takes two parties to agree. So it's not like the Panthers took advantage of Jake. He (and his agent) agreed to the terms - they didn't have to. You can use the argument that Jake is a great guy all you want, but the bottom line is he didn't have to sign anything.
As far as I'm concerned, the only mistake made with any of his contracts was the last one.
Exactly, the idea it was all a reward is rubbish. A huge motivation for the move was the cap space needed to survive the 2008 post season signing of Jordan Gross to a long term deal and the ungodly Franchise Tag placed on Julius Peppers. Then, they didn't anticipate just how badly Jake would suck in 2009. Added up with no cap this year it means by by Jake.
Smith said that Delhomme's 2009 contract extension included $12.7 million in guaranteed money due and payable in future years as an alternative to a large signing bonus earned at the time the deal was finalized. The Panthers were facing serious cap issues last year, given that the franchise tag applied to defensive end Julius Peppers and long-term deal paid to tackle Jordan Gross as the Panthers faced the possibility of letting Peppers or Gross hit the open market due to the availability of only one franchise tag.
So the present and future guarantees of $12.7 million were part of a $19 million signing bonus on a five-year deal -- numbers that aren't all that out of line given the overall quarterback market. Smith worked with the Panthers to structure the deal in a manner that gave the team maximum cap space in 2009, and that ensured Delhomme would definitely get the money, in the same way he would have definitely gotten the money if he had received a $19 million signing bonus in 2009 with payments deferred into future years.
The concept is simple. With teams using exotic structures to save cap space, the players should not have been penalized for cooperating.
Thus, the contract was negotiated to simulate a $19 million signing bonus. Hurney and Smith intentionally placed the guarantees into future years, and they intentionally added and omitted terms aimed at ensuring that the money will be paid. For example, the contract fully guaranteed the future payments for injury, skill, and cap, unlike the Julius Peppers deal. And the contract did not include a term allowing the Panthers to derive an offset based on the money he makes elsewhere in 2010 or beyond.