The Pro Bowl is over, and Julius Peppers looked in that game like the girl who once dumped you and then you see her at a party. She looks better than ever, and everyone's watching her dance, and you start channeling the J. Geils Band and screaming at the top of your lungs: "Love stinks, yeah yeah, Love stinks."
OK, maybe that was just something that happened to me one time.
As for Peppers -- one sack (above), one interception and a co-starring role in the NFC's Pro Bowl win Sunday -- that's actually a good thing. Panther fans needed him to look good in that one, because he's about to be gone, and that will be the most recent impression many GMs and coaches have of him as he's dangled as trade bait. (And of course, he's gone -- that awkward sideline TV interview with Tiki Barber should have removed any lingering doubt).
So the Panthers need to get Jordan Gross's contract deal worked out -- and soon -- so they can franchise Peppers without losing the rights to Gross. Gross now holds a full house in this poker game, as he knows that Carolina MUST franchise Peppers and so therefore is obligated to set him totally free on the open market in a few weeks if that's the way he wants it.
I still am betting Gross and the Panthers get a deal done within the next 10 days and that Peppers gets the franchise tag and that the Panthers then trade Peppers on or before draft day in April. That would certainly be the Panthers' plan, if they would admit to it publicly (and understandably, they won't).
But you know what they say about the best-laid plans... Gross has an Opie demeanor, but if he ends up playing hardball, then Carolina may be over a barrel and end up losing both of these Pro Bowl players for 2009 instead of just one.