It wouldn't be February around here without our annual Julius Peppers watch now, would it?
As reported in today's Charlotte Observer, Peppers' agent Carl Carey says (hopefully?) that he believes the Panthers have "moved on" from Peppers. And that they are giving Peppers the "silent treatment." And that Carey called the Panthers to initiate discussion and that they -- horrors! -- have yet to call him back.
Now what does this tell us besides the fact that the Panthers may have a bad case of telephone etiquette, assuming you believe Carey's side of things on this?
The Panthers claim nothing at all. General manager Marty Hurney released a statement Sunday night saying nothing had been finalized in terms of the Peppers decision (the team would have to put a "franchise tag" on him, if it wanted to do that, in the window from Feb.11-25).
Where does the truth lie on this one?? I would guess that, as usual in these posturing/negotiating sessons, somewhere in the middle. To say that the Panthers are totally uninterested in Peppers -- who was again their best defensive lineman in 2009 and just made the NFL's All-Decade team for the 2000s -- is naive. Obviously, they would want to sign him if they thought they could get him for a reasonable price.
But to say that the Panthers are salivating over themselves with the idea of signing Peppers is also incorrect. They certainly aren't going to make him the NFL's highest-paid defensive player anymore, as they were once prepared to do.
My guess here is they are playing a bit of hardball -- making Carey and Peppers wait, making them anxious and then -- boom -- one last offer and/or discussion at some point in February and then it's take it or leave it.
Will they franchise tag Peppers again, at a cost of more than $20 million for 2010?
I don't think so, even in what is likely to be an "uncapped" year. Even though Peppers played well for 2009, it didn't work out for Carolina as a whole, as the team finished 8-8, so I think Carolina won't rent him again for such a high price.
But the beauty of this whole thing is that I could be wrong, you could be wrong, Carey could be wrong, Hurney could be wrong -- you never know when it's February, and the name "Julius Peppers" is on the calendar.