The Super Bowl has crowned its champion and they’ve had their parade. Party’s over.
For the Patriots, yes, the Vince Wilfork situation is huge (much like Vince Wilfork himself), but obviously the Patriots need more to get further.
Addressing the defense should be the biggest priority, evidenced by Ray Rice’s brilliant performance dominating New England’s defense in the Wild Card round of the playoffs.
One name that has been a constant, since last offseason in fact, has been (former?) Panthers defensive end Julius Peppers.
Peppers, who is is a free agent feels that the Panthers have ignored him, and does not want to sign a long-term deal with the team.
Carolina could use the franchise tag on him and have until February 25 to do so, but Peppers didn’t want to be there last season after a career year and he doesn’t want to be there now.
The leading suitor is New England, and on the field at least the two would be a perfect match.
The Patriots pass rush is sorely lacking.
The Patriots finished tied for 23rd in the NFL with 31 sacks and were the worst amongst playoff teams. Tully Banta-Cain, surprisingly, led the Pats in sacks with 9.5 and was tied for 14th most in the league, but the drop-off was drastic, as the second most on the team was defensive ends Derrick Burgess and Mike Wright’s five sacks, tied for 59th in the NFL.
The Patriots had slow and aging linebackers who too often were dropping into coverage to make up for a lackluster secondary, and the trade of defensive end Richard Seymour allowed teams to double Wilfork.
Peppers would immediately become the defense’s focus and take pressure off of Wilfork and add much needed experience to a defensive line that featured four rookies.
In six of his eight seasons in the NFL Carolina’s all-time sacks leader has registered double digits in sacks. Peppers is also a five-time Pro-Bowler.
A defensive end his entire career in a 4-3 base set, Peppers has also expressed a willingness to drop back to play linebacker in a 3-4.
He also has been to the Super Bowl, facing the Patriots, and knows what it takes to win.
If he is franchised though, the Patriots would have to give up compensation to get him, most likely a first round draft pick at least, and Peppers would demand a hefty contract.
The reasoning behind why Peppers may not be worth the price is because of questions about his attitude.
The past few years Peppers has constantly complained about his situation in Carolina. While he has performed, the past couple of seasons, he and his contract situation have also been a distraction in the locker room.
He also has been criticized for taking plays off.
New England has already had Adalius Thomas causing headaches in the locker room this season and Bill Belichick does not want another one.
All signs point to Thomas getting a ticket out of New England, either by trade or being released. That would leave room on the defense for an elite playmaker, which Peppers certainly fits the bill for. But while replacing his skills on the field, would he present the same problems off it?
Or would he be more like Randy Moss, a player that had attitude baggage with former franchises but flourished under Belichick, as well as Tom Brady’s, leadership?
While the defense needs help, the defensive line was the most productive of all the units. Could the Patriots use their money and resources on a linebacker or defensive back?
Or do they make Peppers a linebacker?
Peppers is still a playmaker and while the Patriots have a few on offense, they are in desperate need of some on defense.
Will Peppers be the answer?