Coach rewarded with new contract through 2008

Coach John Fox, who inherited a Carolina team that won just one game in 2001 and two years later guided it to a Super Bowl berth, has reached an agreement on a three-year contract extension through the 2008 season.

Agent Bob LaMonte, who represents an impressive stable of head coaches, confirmed the agreement, as did several league sources.

The new deal will dramatically upgrade Fox's compensation. As a rookie head coach in 2002, Fox signed a three-year contract with a one-year option, and that deal was believed to be worth about $1 million annually.

With the extension, Fox is expected to earn approximately $3 million per year. Panthers officials acknowledged late in the 2003 season, even before the team made its stirring run to the NFC championship, that Fox would receive an enhanced deal in the offseason.

It is likely that general manager Marty Hurney will next focus his attention on securing a contract extension with quarterback Jake Delhomme, who is entering the final season of a two-year deal he signed last spring. Agent Rick Smith said last week that negotiations with Delhomme are expected to begin later this month.

Fox, 49, has shepherded the Panthers through a remarkable turnaround. During the two seasons before he replaced George Seifert as head coach, Carolina won just eight games. A longtime defensive coordinator, Fox led the Panthers to a 7-9 mark in 2002 and then, in 2003, to an 11-5 mark and the franchise's first division title since 1996.

The Panthers then won three playoff games, including the last two on the road, to gain their first Super Bowl berth.

Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com.