NFL Rumor Mill: Julius Peppers to The Green Bay Packers

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NFL Rumor Mill: Julius Peppers to The Green Bay Packers
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

With free agency fast approaching, it's a speculator's fantasy cooking up the possibilities for Panthers defensive end Julius Peppers. 

It's an endless list of prospective destinations for the defensive star, but with Carolina having only until February 25th to use another pricey franchise tag on Peppers, the possibilities are becoming more relevant and, equally, more interesting.

Peppers made it clear during last year's offseason that he has no interest in finishing his career in a 4-3 defense. A worthy request for a sack machine, as the sack leaders in the last ten years have been primarily based out of a 3-4 system.

At 6'7", 283 pounds, though, Peppers' potential as an outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense would be exotic, to say the least. The Carolina veteran is undoubtedly a sack-master, finishing second only to Indianapolis' Dwight Freeney in sacks per year (10.1). 

The question, rather, is whether or not he can be effective as a coverage man in open field. There are no qualms about his speed or athleticism, but at such a heavy stature, there is a concern that he won't be able to keep up with speedy tight ends or maintain a large area of space in zone coverage. 

There have been speculations that Peppers may land with a team like the Philadelphia Eagles or the Chicago Bears, but I just can't envision him leaving a team he is already comfortable with to pursue a final paycheck with an organization that employs a defensive system he wants out of. 

Rather, my guess is Peppers will find his way to an already successful team that uses a 3-4, a team like the Green Bay Packers or the New England Patriots

The Patriots need veteran leadership on the defensive side of the ball like the Jaguars need fans in their seats. Peppers' personality, though, is that of a vibrant, fun-loving young man who conducts himself as an independent figure on the field. I'm just not convinced Peppers wants to be put in a position of a leader in the locker room suffering from chemistry angsts. 

I have my money on the Packers, despite the odds that are stacked against them. General Manager Ted Thompson, nicknamed "tight-wad Ted" has never been the type to shell out loads of money for any one player, something Peppers will most certainly demand as a free agent. 

Former Carolina defensive coordinator Mike Trgovac is also the defensive line coach in Green Bay. Although it isn't clear what Peppers relationship was like with his former coordinator, Trgovac could provide a face of familiarity should Peppers opt for the green and gold. 

None of these speculations are valid, however, if the Panthers decide to slap another franchise tag on Peppers. The North Carolina born-and-bred player may decide to stay close to home and finish out his career in a place that has treated him well and is on the verge of returning those deposits with a championship berth. 

Peppers is, after all, thirty years old and he isn't getting any younger. 

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