Panthers reward coach Fox with new $25M deal

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Ensuring the long-term employment of a coach who has taken the team to a pair of conference championship games in only four seasons, the Carolina Panthers have signed John Fox to a new five-year contract.

ESPN.com's John Clayton reports it is a five-year, $25 million extension, making Fox one of the highest-paid head coaches in the NFL.

"It's been obvious from the day he interviewed that he was a good fit," general manager Marty Hurney said Monday afternoon from the annual NFL owners meetings. "We work well together. He has a great feel for what the Richardson family wants as owners, how they want the organization to function, all the things that are important to them. And he's got a great rapport with the players."

Fox is 41-30 overall in four seasons and 5-2 in the playoffs. He's twice taken the Panthers to the playoffs and won a division championship in 2003. The numbers are all the more remarkable given that Fox in 2002 took over a Carolina team that was 1-15 the previous season. The Panthers were a wild-card team in 2005, finishing with an 11-5 record. They lost to Seattle in the NFC championship game.

The new deal marks the second time the Panthers have adjusted Fox's contract from the original deal he signed in 2002.

"I have been very happy at Carolina working with the Richardson
family and Marty Hurney," Fox told The Associated Press. "I appreciate the confidence
they showed in me four years ago when I was an assistant coach and
feel the same way now as I enter this new contract.

"It has been a great relationship that I look forward to continuing."

Under his existing contract, Fox had two more seasons remaining, at approximately $3 million annually. The Panthers essentially tore up that contract and awarded him the new five-year deal.

The job with the Panthers is the first head coaching position for Fox, after a long career as an assistant coach and defensive coordinator in the league.

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