This last week we have lost a lot of our favorite Panthers. Not just people on the roster, good solid starters that have been on this team for a number of years. Players that have been a good part of our team on and off the field, have represented us in the greatest way possible, and have made us proud. The team seems to be on a bit of a youth movement, but nobody expected that the team would change this much, this quickly.
It's a sad thing, watching some of these players move on. Knowing that we'll never see them in a Panthers uniform ever again. So on this holy day of Sunday when we all go to church and spend time with our families, let's dedicate this time to mourn our fallen Panthers who won't be back to see us next season. Let us remember them for the good times they brought us, and all the memories that come with it.
Jake Delhomme - QB - Age: 35
How can you start a article like this and not mention Jake Delhomme? It seems just like yesterday that he took over for Rodney Peete in 2003 and took us for the first 4th Quarter comeback of his career against Jacksonville. Look at what he's brought us! Three trips to the playoffs, two NFC Championship appearances, and one wild ride of a Super Bowl.
He's taken this team to a combined record of 50-31 in the regular season, he's a combined 4-3 in the playoffs, he's led this team farther than any of us could have ever hoped and dreamed for. In the clutch, he was unmatched. If there was any QB in the NFL that you wanted to have the ball in the 4th Quarter, it would be Jake Delhomme, no questions asked.
Wherever he goes, wherever he is seen, he will always be our QB. The man that rose from the unknown and took our franchise to greatness. While we look towards the future in Matt Moore, let us also look to the past and tip our hat in his honor. He has had a great run here, and I look forward for him to move on and revive his career elsewhere and take them for a good run too!
The rest of them after the jump!
Ma'ake Kemoeatu - DT - Age: 30
People like to talk about the Panthers failures in free agency, but let's talk about some of our successes as well. Ma'ake Kemoeatu was one of them. At 350+ pounds, this guy is a true nose tackle. A dominant run stuffer that takes up a lot of room along the D-line. With him in the lineup, the Panthers had a great time stopping the run. Without him, the Panthers had trouble.
He leaves here with almost 100 tackles on his resume during his four year stay. I wish him luck recovering from his Archilles and I know that we'll see him on another team next year.
Damione Lewis - DT - Age: 31
Another free agent success from the St. Louis Rams, Damione Lewis took over for Kris Jenkins after he fled Carolina for the New York Jets in 2008. Just like a lot of the guys on the defensive line, he was never a player that people really knew. But he always came to work and did his job when he was asked to, and no one else really saw much of him otherwise. He was still a good player for our team though, registering 43 tackles, 3.5 sacks, and 1 fumble on the QB.
He is another player that won't be with the Panthers next year. It is with a heavy heart that we wish him farewell and goodbye.
Hollis Thomas - DT - Age: 36
How can you not mention Hollis Thomas when you're talking about players that will be missed? Up until Hollis came to our team in Week 4, the Panthers were one of the worst teams in the league on the defensive side of the ball. He came in and saved our defense, improving the Panthers till they were around the middle of the pack in defending against the run.
The team only grew better as the year wore on. When the team was kicking on all cylinders and Matt Moore was starting, it was no surprise that the Panthers were one of the top teams on defending the rush nearing at the end of the season. The Panthers held Adrian Peterson of the Vikings to 35 yards, Adan Bradshaw of the Giants to 53, and Lynell Hamilton and Reggie Bush of the Saints to just 83 during the last 3 weeks. A lot of this is due to Hollis Thomas leading the group up front, plugging up the gaps with his massive body and keeping the other team from charging right up the middle.
Tyler Brayton - DE - Age: 30
Tyler came over from the Oakland Raiders in 2008, and he became a pretty decent player to pair up with Julius Peppers. He registered over 80 tackles in his two year stay with Carolina, 10 sacks, and a pair of fumble recoveries. He was admirable for his hard work ethic above anything else.
He once said that he would be heartbroken if the Panthers did not bring him back. Sadly, the Panthers seemed to deem him too old to play on their team any longer. But Tyler's career is far from over. When you see a guy that will work as hard as Tyler can, he's going to be in shape for quite some time. I guarantee he'll be on another roster this upcoming season, and he'll be back in the starting lineup getting ready to wack on opposing QB's once more.
Na'il Diggs - LB - Age: 31
Na'il Diggs came over from Green Bay in 2006 after having a rough year the year before. He revived his career in Carolina and became an instant starter as a weakside linebacker in his first year, starting 15 games and registering 61 tackles. As he grew older though, age slowly began to catch up with him. He had 3 good consecutive years until 2009, where he only registered 28 tackles starting in 14 games.
At an older age and in a different defensive system, Na'il Diggs seems to have lost a step. He isn't as good a player as he was in years past. Still, he was an intricate part of our 12-4 record in 2008, proving that John Fox's loyalty to his veterans is not at all as bad as we all think. Now he moves on to a new team and a new destiny, and hopefully he will revive his career once more and have a couple more good years before he retires.
Keydrick Vincent - G - Age: 31
Keydrick Vincent was the product of John Fox and his multiple signings of cheap guards throughout the NFL to give our O-Line a boost coming into 2008. At age 30, Vincent won the battle over former Chargers guard Toniu Fonoti and started for the Panthers in 2008 and he played a full 14 games before he went down right before the playoffs.
He returned at full heath in 2009 and helped the Panthers to an 8-8 record. The offensive line was wonderful the entire year, but the offense never really caught fire till the end of the season till Jake Delhomme was taken out in favor of Matt Moore. Next year, Duke Robinson will take over for Vincent barring the signing of a free agent, and we'll see how the rookie does as we move forward towards younger guys.
Good luck to Keydrick, I hope that his time in Carolina will help him score a much larger contract somewhere else.
Rhys Lloyd - K - Age: 27
The Panthers looked towards Europe when they were looking to solve their kickoff woes, the Panthers only had 2 kicks reach the endzone for a touchback in 2007, worst in the NFL. Rhys Lloyd came over to the Panthers in 2008, an Englishman from the bankrupt NFL Europa seeking a career and a paycheck in the NFL as a kickoff specialist. He did not disappoint.
The Panthers improved from worst in the league in kickoff coverage to one of the best. The Panthers rode Ryse Lloyd, watching him faithfully boot ball after ball into the stands game after game. Our special team woes became a non-factor, because the other team would never have to touch the ball to begin with. Hopefully we'll see him back this year, but the Rhys Lloyd will get to test free agency and he will look for a deal above the NFL minimum of $545,000.
He is well worth it. You can't do too much to the other team if you don't touch the ball.
Julius Peppers - DE - Age: 30
Enjoy your new contract Julius.
Brad Hoover - FB - Age: 33
Oh Brad Hoover. Why do you have to leave us too? Today on March 8th, I have to sadly add you to the list of roster casualties as well. Brad Hoover came to our team as an undrafted free agen. He has spend his entire career in Carolina and quickly became a fan favorite. Ten years. Brad Hoover has been with us for over a decade. Whether it was the way that he conducted himself off the field, the way that he seemed to truly care for his fans, or maybe it was his big goofy face, the fans simply loved him. He was the loyal lead blocker that helped lead the Panthers to the Super Bowl in 2003, and off to the playoffs countless times.
And now he's gone. The Panthers have decided to forgo his contract, and move on with players like Terrall Sutton and Tony Fiametta. All this....seemingly only due to his age. As Chris Harris has said on his blog, he will truly be missed. We can only hope, we can only pray, that our Carolina Panthers have some method to their madness. We can put someone else at FB and ask them to try to block, but no one will ever be able to truly replace the Hoov. He is, was, and always will be.....our guy.