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An interview this morning between Charlotte's WFNZ-AM and Carolina Panthers' defensive end Julius Peppers alluded that Peppers will not accept any kind of long-term deal from the Panthers concerning the upcoming season.
Somehow, though, I couldn't care less.
Typically, I work hard to maintain strict professionalism in any piece that speculates on a player's future or the result of a controversial happening within an organization, but this time, I can't help myself.
I have defended Julius Peppers all season long, citing the man's stats like he's the second coming of defensive ends. Truthfully, he is a great player. His athleticism allows him to do things most defenders can't and I've always been a fan of his.
That is, until I heard his interview this morning.
Once again, it was more of Peppers and his agent, Carl Carey, posturing about how the organization was giving him the silent treatment and that their lack of a sense of urgency irritated him to the point that he no longer considers being a Panther a viable option.
"Last year, at the time, that was the option that I wanted most," Peppers said. "Now it's not."
Wait, what? Is he suggesting that a long-term deal with the Panthers is really what he wanted last year? I don't know about you, but that's not how I remember it.
In fact, let's take a moment to reflect on this saga. For that, we'll need to go back and take a look at the end of the 2007 season. Peppers had been held to 2.5 sacks and, in an effort to avoid the situation they find themselves in now, the organization offered the defensive end a six-year contract that would have made him the highest-paid NFL defensive player.
Apparently, though, that just wasn't good enough.
"That deal was to make me the highest-paid defensive player, but slightly, very slightly," Peppers said this morning. "I didn't really feel the sincerity behind that deal."
When I heard that this morning, I nearly spit my coffee all over the dash. I had no idea that my big, lovable No. 90 could be so selfish. Perhaps it was sheer naivety that blinded me.
Obviously, the team never solidified a deal and, when Peppers recorded over fourteen sacks the following season, it appeared he would be headed for free agency. He wasn't happy playing under current defensive coordinator Mike Trgovac and he was curious about possibly playing in a 3-4 defense.
In an effort to gain something from their potential loss, the Panthers organization slapped a franchise tag on him and waited for the inevitable offers that were sure to come, but nothing did.
Peppers claimed he was willing to work on a long-term contract, but (dis)respectfully refrained from signing his tender until mere days before the start of training camp, a response to what he felt was greedy workings within the organization.
"I never felt that they did that with the intent to keep me here," Peppers said. "I felt like they did that in an attempt to send me off somewhere else to get compensation, draft picks or whatever."
Now, I majored in English, not Economics, but it would seem to me that any financially-savvy team would have resorted to the tactics the Panthers did, if only to retain some sort of compensation for losing a player who, in reality, had no interest in complying with any wishes the team may have expressed.
Peppers did well again in the 2009 season, recording 10.5 sacks and earning a spot on the NFC's Pro Bowl roster (and not as an injury/disinterest substitute). While no one has openly expressed interest in acquiring the 30-year-old defensive end, it's clear he will have an array of options once he is officially released from the Panthers.
However, I don't think he'll ever get a deal like the Panthers offered him back in 2007. Even when the league had the opportunity to pick him up via giving up two first round picks last year, no one came forward. Perhaps that was an indication of how teams really felt about him.
Even Jacksonville Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio told Peppers it didn't appear as if he was giving it his all on every play. Of course, Julius Peppers is never wrong and he was quick to retort.
"I told him just because it doesn't look like I'm running as hard as the next man with my arms swinging, sweating and breathing hard doesn't mean I'm not trying as hard," Peppers countered. "I'm still trying hard, it just doesn't look like it. I do it easier."
I no longer care about the future of No. 90. His inconsistent play is too much to ignore and his fun-loving personality has been superseded by verbal financial woes. I've lost the warm and fuzzy feeling, Pep.
The Panthers have until February 25 to use a franchise tag on Peppers, and you know what...I hope they don't.
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