Panthers Face Another Offseason Question on What to Do with Peppers

The Panthers will have tough offseason decisions to make about players on the roster, and one player that is at the top of that list is DE Julius Peppers. Last offseason Peppers came out and stated he would never play for the Cats again, and demanded a trade.

He didn’t get his wish, and finally after the team franchised him, he ended up playing another season for Carolina, which ended the season as one of the hotter teams in the NFC with wins over Minnesota, the Giants and Saints.

They have already said that coach John Fox will be back, so now it seems the next big decision will be about Peppers. Pro Football Weekly below says that it appears the team will allow Peppers to walk.

We hear the Panthers don’t want DE Julius Peppers to get away, but sources in Charlotte don’t expect that he and the team will agree to a long-term extension before he becomes an unrestricted free agent in March. There’s a decent chance he has played his final game with the Panthers.

Peppers likely isn’t going to release a statement lobbying for a chance to play elsewhere, as he did last year around this time, and he may not need to. Word is Carolina will not use the franchise tag on him again, after tagging him in 2009. Using the tag would allow the Panthers to listen to trade offers for Peppers and prevent him from departing without some compensation in return. His salary, however, would rise to $21.8 million for the 2010 season under the one-year tag, and that’s a price the Panthers apparently aren’t willing to pay.

They could put the tag on Peppers and try to deal him away, but that’s a risky move — no team will likely be willing to empty the coffers with a package of draft picks and the lucrative deal it will take to acquire Peppers and sign him to a contract.

There also was some local news today about Peppers, as reports that Peppers and his agent are waiting for the Panthers to make a move about what is going to happen next.

His agent, Carl Carey, said Thursday that Peppers’ concerns of a year ago about staying with the team “don’t currently exist.” He said Peppers, a five-time Pro Bowl selection, isn’t ready to state his desires until the team expresses its position.

“I think it’s appropriate that we reserve our comments until after the Panthers organization has publicly stated their intentions regarding Julius’ impending free agency,” Carey said. “Julius feels good about being selected to his fifth Pro Bowl and is focusing on representing the Carolina Panthers [in the Jan. 31 game] in Miami.”

Peppers has been the defensive star for the Panthers for years, and they should do whatever they can to keep him. Not many players can change a game like Peppers, and there’s no doubt that it would be tough to get equal value for him on the NFL market.

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