Carr and Harrington to visit this week

The Carolina Panthers will escalate their quarterback search this coming week, hosting visits from free agents David Carr and Joey Harrington, the first and third overall picks respectively in the 2002 NFL draft.

The Panthers are in need of a backup for Jake Delhomme, who has already been declared the starter for next season by head coach John Fox.

You can't help but wonder why Carr or Harrington would want to come to Carolina if there are other opportunities to start out there. Among the teams potentially looking for a starting quarterback include the Oakland Raiders, Minnesota Vikings, Miami Dolphins, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Cleveland Browns.

Carr has started 75 games and Harrington 66 since joining the NFL, so it's hard to imagine either being content as a backup for very long.

But barring a change of heart by Fox that's exactly what they would be in Carolina, especially given Delhomme has three years left on a five-year, $38 million contract.

It's been suggested Carr might want to go to a competitive team where he has a chance to win -- and learn -- instead of taking the most money and a sure starting job and going with a team headed in the wrong direction. That could be why Carr is also scheduled to meet with Seattle, who also has a solid starter in place in Matt Hasselbeck.

Delhomme has had plenty of success since coming to Carolina in 2003, leading the team to two NFC title games and a Super Bowl, but his popularity has dropped after struggling last season.

He finished with a quarterback rating of 82.6 and threw away two games against Cincinnati and Philadelphia with costly interceptions in the end zone in the closing seconds. In both cases the Panthers could have kicked a field goal to tie the score and send the game into overtime. In the fine line that separates winners from losers and playoff teams from non-playoff teams, those interceptions hurt. Had Carolina won either game they would have made the playoffs.

There are two other things working against Delhomme this year.

First, he lost perhaps his biggest supporter in January when the Panthers fired offensive coordinator Dan Henning. Now there's a new offense with a new coordinator, so the slate is clean.

And second, there is the matter of that pesky sprained thumb on Delhomme's throwing hand.

Although he came back in the season finale after missing three games and looked good against the New Orleans Saints junior varsity team, he had to wear a glove to help him grip the football. It was said Delhomme wouldn't need surgery, but there has to be some concern on the team's part about the long-term affects of the injury. Kurt Warner, a former NFL MVP, has never been the same since injuring the thumb on his throwing hand.

Delhomme will start this season for Carolina.

But he might be a little more worried about his long-term future if the Panthers sign Carr of Harrington (as opposed to someone like Anthony Wright, another player the team has shown interest in) to back him up.

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