Just as a personal aside, it's funny how time flies. In 2003, 04, 05, things like the Super Bowl team, the young players added after the big game, and the big contracts signed in 2005-06 all kinda pointed toward 2008-09 as a reckoning.
This includes contracts like Jake Delhomme's - his cap figure is 6th in the league for quarterbacks and will probably be dealt with soon. It certainly impacts Ken Lucas' employment, something we'll probably find out about this week. It certainly impacted the Jordan Gross, Chris Gamble, and Julius Peppers' contracts. It's hard to believe in the grand scheme of things: 2009 will see the former two on the field, but without the latter. Peppers, for all this time, has embodied our success, partially because we placed him there; meanwhile, his eagerness to leave has only highlighted that there have been others willing to take up the flag (even if none of them, unfortunately, are DL).
It's funny, though, 2009 would've been time to deal with Kris Jenkins' contract. Dan Morgan's. Deshaun Foster would've been a free agent, harkening back to a simpler time where running backs weren't so balls-out awesome. It's been rare to see this team change so much in the last few years (much less the last seven total), watching the youth of that Super Bowl team age, watching the veterans fall by the wayside.
At any rate, it's here. Fiscal year 2009. It's odd, it all played out around what I thought it would. Sure, there was hope for Super Bowls, and we could've had one by now. But I never did expect one, and I never will. It's such a specific, unlikely thing, an elite group of teams both talented and lucky. I also had little doubt we'd get this far intact - that John Fox would still be here, that changes would inevitably come to at least one side of the ball.
And yet it's hard to look past right now, suddenly. Why?
I don't think it's fear of the Fox regime going away. I like what we did last year, and I think we can enact similar change to the DL to bring the defense back to life, especially if they can parlay the Peppers issue into something workable. I think Fox is on solid ground.
It's uncertainty, I guess. The Peppers situation. Delhomme, and how he responds, and how long he has left even if he does. The lottery-sized contracts - back when I effectively guessed a long term Kris Jenkins extension within a million dollars, back before people knew he was getting an extension? Those contracts made sense. Look at the Nnamdi Asomugha contract - that makes no sense at all. A two-year deal, completely guaranteed, that essentially allows them to franchise him without the effort, and a third-year option equal to the franchise amount for QBs? How does that make any sense?
And the long term development, the contracts? Most of our guys from the 06, 07, 08 drafts - in a way as good as we've ever had from a set of drafts, are developed. They're here, they're good. They're playing a part. We need more, since free agency has effectively been an achilles heel the last few years.
Finally, the uncertainty of the league right now is harming the ability to look past the current times. I don't think there'll be an uncapped year, but it's likely we could see a lockout, a work stoppage, if a new CBA isn't agreed upon. It's impossible to worry about whether we can (or should, from a fiscal standpoint) retain Thomas Davis if he's signed up to the expiration of a salary cap.
And we've never seen a work stoppage as Panther fans. Not within ten years of the franchise suiting up. It leaves the level of uncertainty that keeps you from being able to imagine the future.