Last off-season every Patriots fan’s dream almost came to fruition when Julius Peppers’ six year rookie contract with the Carolina Panthers expired and New England immediately expressed interested in the unrestricted free agent.
On March 5, 2010 that dream became a reality for Chicago Bears fans. Peppers signed a six-year contract with Chicago worth $91.5 million. The deal included $42 million guaranteed over the first three years, an average annual salary of $14 million.
The Patriots pursued Peppers with an honest interest in acquiring the star pass rusher offering $10 million annually but obviously fell quite short of Chicago’s winning bid.
Peppers will average $16.5 million over the latter three years of his monstrous contact which does interestingly include a nullification clause allowing Chicago to move on from him after year one.
Bears officials would be hard pressed to find a reason to void Peppers’ deal after he posted a season worthy of Defensive Player of the Year honors which he finished fourth in voting for. With just a sliver of a chance that Peppers leaves Chicago before the end of his prime Patriots fans should begin to look elsewhere for a dream acquisition.
Historically the Patriots have avoided big splashes in Free Agency like the plague even electing to let big names from their own organization walk. The list is getting rather lengthy with the likes of Asante Samuel, Deion Branch, Ty Law, Lawyer Milloy, Willie McGinest, and Curtis Martin all leaving New England for greener pastures. Only time will tell if Logan Mankins will join the ranks of greats to leave the team over a financial disagreement.
There's a reason they do what they do however. The fans may have to suffer through the loss of a few stars, but New England recognizes irreplaceable talent when they see it and if the price is right a deal will be made. Tom Brady, Vince Wilfork, Ty Warren and Leigh Bodden can attest to that.
So with Peppers all but eliminated from the wish list and with New England conceivably still willing to throw eight figure contracts out lets take a look at who could possibly dawn a Patriots uniform next season.