Does it make sense to start Matt Moore?

I know that sounds like a stupid question. It almost doesn’t make sense when you first read it.

“Of course they should”, you think to yourself. “Why wouldn’t the Panthers start Matt Moore?”

It’s a bit more complicated than it seems on the surface. Ideally, you’d like to see Moore do well, him get a fat contract here and play the next 10 years at a high level, leading the Panthers to the playoffs every season.

But look at what’s happening to this team right now. No contract extensions, no free agent signings of note, two quarterbacks drafted.

What does that tell you? It tells me that the Panthers don’t want to spend any money, and that saving is a priority.

Minnesota Vikings v Carolina Panthers

We know Matt Moore’s agent recently stated that the Panthers weren’t interested in signing Moore to a long-term deal at the time they gave him the first and third round tender earlier this Spring. Had they wanted to lock him up — and not allow him to hit free agency after the 2010 season — they would have signed him to a new, long-term deal while his price was relatively low.

Keeping that in mind, let’s assume Moore’s performance this season is similar to his performance last season, winning 3/4 of the games played, ending the season 12-4. Moore will then be an unrestricted free agent. The only way they can keep him is to place either a transitional or franchise tag on him — assuming the NFL keeps those methods of tagging in their new collective bargaining agreement. That greatly elevates Moore’s cap value to an average of the top 10 QBs in the NFL. Do you think the Panthers will pay a player that much after only starting a season and a half with a weaker than normal schedule, especially when they have a younger, more highly regarded player on the roster in Jimmy Clausen?

I don’t.

That’s why it makes more sense for the Panthers as an organization to start Jimmy Clausen and let the Clausen era begin in Charlotte. Clausen will be with the Panthers in 2011. If the Panthers plan on letting Moore walk after the season, it makes more sense to have Clausen play now — during the “youth movement” — than having him sit this season and prolonging his on-field learning. If you are all about saving money, and the Panthers are, why wouldn’t you go with the cheaper, longer-term solution in Clausen as soon as possible?

Or do you just let Moore do what he does this season, franchise him, then try to trade him after 2010?