Off to Greener Pastures?

In two minutes and 56 seconds on Sunday, Chris Weinke probably earned more money than most of us will make in a lifetime. When Jake Delhomme went down with a head injury late in Sunday's game against Detroit, it presented Weinke with a golden opportunity. And he cashed in.

Working with no timeouts and his down six points, Weinke worked the field like a veteran and completed 5 of 7 passes for 47 yards and led the team on a 52-yard touchdown drive to give the Panthers a 21-20 victory.

Afterward, Weinke was all smiles.

And as well he should be.

Weinke, who will become an unrestricted free agent after the season, has likely earned himself a multi-million contract just in those few minutes of action.

Weinke has been stellar in Carolina's last three preseasons but hasn't played since 2002 and coming into Sunday had only thrown 38 passes over the past three seasons. Although he went 1-14 as a starter his rookie year in 2001, there are many who say it isn't even fair to count that because Weinke was thrown into the fire in a West Coast offense he'd never run and with very limited talent around him.

But Weinke's play has vastly improved since then.

He knows this offense and he's extremely capable.

Certainly there is some team out there that Weinke could start for right now. The team he beat on Sunday, Detroit, is the first to come to mind.

Chicago, Baltimore, Cleveland and Arizona are among the other teams Weinke could certainly start for right now.

Weinke has said in the past that he's happy in Carolina but his goal is to be a starter.

That won't happen in Carolina as long as Jake Delhomme is around. So look for Weinke to move on after the season if he gets the right offer.

And believe me, he will.

Other teams study preseason games and should have seen how effective Weinke has been the last three preseasons where he has posted a combined quarterback rating of above 100.

Sunday's game only solidified the fact that he can do it in a regular season game - and in the clutch, no less.

Weinke has received plenty of praise from coach John Fox and offensive coordinator Dan Henning for sticking it out through some tough times and staying positive even after he got benched one week before the 2002 season.

"Chris has been around here a long time," coach John Fox said. "He knows the two-minute drill. He knows the players. One of the plusses of having a veteran backup is they've been there before. He's been with us; he's been with the team; he's been in the system; and he executed it very well."

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