If the Carolina Panthers let Julius Peppers walk into free agency it will be their biggest mistake yet. If that is what happens though, it's nobodies fault but their own. They backed themselves into this corner. Now it seems as though they intend to just sit on their hands and let it happen.
It's no secret that I approve of the front office in Carolina as much as sane fans approve of Al Davis in Oakland. It isn't that bad, but it isn't that much better either. Last off-season the big question was, "Where will Julius Peppers play in 2009?" The bigger question in Carolina was, "What can we get for him?" It was asked with a greedy smile by some.
Amazingly enough the question for the 2010 off-season is, "Where will Julius Peppers play in 2010?" This time there is no greedy smile. That's because there isn't even a guarantee Peppers will depart via trade. He could simply be allowed to become a free agent.
Let's revisit this situation and clear it up to those unfamiliar. Following a 12-4 season and a disastrous postseason in 2008 the Panthers looked ahead to 2009, contractually speaking. Jordan Gross and Julius Peppers, two big names with bigger price tags.
Peppers voiced his desire to explore his options with another team. Also to convert to outside linebacker in a 3-4 system. That meant he eliminated quite a few teams from contention, including Carolina. He then stated if franchised he'd immediately request a trade. Carolina Franchised him anyway.
It was Franchise him or lose him period. So franchise they did. No shopping Peppers for a trade or anything. They were content to slap the tag on Peppers and wait on him to sign his tender. Which he did eventually. By eventually I mean right before training camp.
So while Peppers earned his million and a half dollars a game he earned some pretty impressive numbers as well. He also earned another quarter of a million dollars for his trip to the Pro Bowl. That was likely Julius Peppers final game in a Panthers helmet.
It would be easy to speculate where Peppers will play next season. New England, San Diego, Dallas, Miami, so on and so forth. It's harder though to try and figure out what the front office at Bank of America Stadium are going to do. They aren't dealing with a quick fix.
We're back where we started now. They can Franchise him again (can't they?) or they can simply let him walk. If they let him walk they will get nothing, absolutely zero for Julius Peppers. Not only that but they send one of the best defensive ends in the NFL out to 31 other teams.
Whatever happens will probably not benefit Carolina. Either financially, through a new lucrative contract with Peppers, or just losing him altogether. Either way though, this is their own doing, so they have no one to blame but themselves.