Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Pepp's gone, what's next?

We all knew it was coming, but Panthers GM Marty Hurney made it official Tuesday. Defensive end Julius Peppers will be an unrestricted free agent, as the team won't franchise-tag him again. Peppers will be free to sign with any team, at whatever price he, and his agent Carl Carey, agree to.

It was time.

$20 million dollars for one season is just ridiculous. In fact, the $18.5 they paid him last season was fairly ludicrous as well. In fairness, they were on the hook for $16 million, but when Peppers was named a starter in the Pro Bowl, that kicked in an additional $1.5 million. Still, it all adds up to incredibly dumb.

On February 9th, Peppers was a guest on the "Mac Attack" show on WFNZ-AM 610 in Charlotte. He said in his interview that there was no communication between the Panthers, and his agent. He said that repeatedly. On Tuesday, Hurney lauded the open lines of communication between the team and the agent. Who is telling the truth?

My guess is that Hurney is. Here's why. Think back to this time a year ago. The "magic list" of teams was leaked, that Peppers only wanted to be traded to 4 teams in the league. The word in the papers and internet was all coming from the players side. The Panthers stayed out of the media with their negotiations, stayed out of the mudslinging. Fast forward to this recent stretch, and it was Carey telling media at the Pro Bowl that Peppers was going to be unrestricted, that he hadn't heard from the Panthers, etc. That side wanted to get in front of a tape recorder, or a camera, and claim they were being wronged by the team. There is something to be said for taking the high road.

In the "fish, or cut bait" world, the Panthers took out the pocketknife, and are moving on. Doing so won't be easy, as Peppers, when he wanted to be a part of the defense, was a tremendous force. Problem was, in spite of Peppers claims that "people don't know his responsibilities from play to play," he wasn't an every down kind of player. His drive, and willingness to go hard on every snap was in question back in his college days, and that reputation followed him, and stuck in the NFL.

Interesting statement from Peppers came from his agent last night. After all was said and done, this was what went out:
"Last night, I learned that the Carolina Panthers would not restrict my
availability during the upcoming free agency period. I feel good
about having the opportunity to visit with other teams. My goal will
be to find the right match for my skill set. I am thankful for the eight
seasons I have spent in the National Football League thus far;
and am looking forward to beginning this new phase of my career."

What's missing there? No mention of the team by name, or the owner, Jerry Richardson. Typically, when a player leaves on what they refer to as "good terms," there are plenty of thanks to go around. Not so much here.

It was time to find a new name to go on the back of jersey #90.

Mike Solarte

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