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NFL Free Agency Rumor Mill: Julius Peppers a Cleveland Brown?

Brian DiTullioSenior Writer IFebruary 3, 2010

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - DECEMBER 27: Julius Peppers #90 of the Carolina Panthers against the New York Giants at Giants Stadium on December 27, 2009 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)
Nick Laham/Getty Images

ESPN’s Chris Mortenson reported on Tuesday that Julius Peppers may not be returning to the Carolina Panthers, and the Cleveland Browns could be a suitor.

Mortenson said that the most likely teams to be interested in him would be Atlanta and Washington, adding the Browns could be a “wildcard” in this situation. Even the Kansas City Chiefs have had their name thrown in the mix, but let’s focus on the Browns.

The Browns need defensive ends. It’s the one position on their line they are very weak on, especially with Mangini’s 3-4 scheme. Signing Peppers would allow the Browns to focus on a safety or shutdown corner in the draft.

Peppers recorded 10.5 sacks, five forced fumbles, and made two interceptions in 2009. These are stats to be respected, especially from a defensive end.

Considering the Browns, as a team, had a total of 40 sacks, just think of the impact Peppers could bring to the defensive unit.

Coordinator Rob Ryan, despite having the 31st-ranked unit in the league in 2009, showed a lot of promising schemes and plays throughout the season. Talent level was seemingly the only obstacle to achieving greater success.

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One also needs to factor in Peppers’ durability. He’s only missed six games since he entered the league in 2002. The addition of Peppers gives the Browns the kind of player any coach would love to have on his team.

The only reason Carolina wouldn’t want to keep him around would be money, and Browns owner Randy Lerner has plenty of money that he’s more than willing to spend. With the uncapped year upon the league, Peppers stands to make a ton of money from any team willing to risk a cap hit in 2011.

Even a 2011 cap hit is pure speculation at this point, because the owners could very well give themselves a waiver on that rule for any player signed during the uncapped year.

This is a factor no one seems to have thought of, but if there is to be a new collective bargaining agreement, there’s no reason to think the owners won’t try to waive the penalty.

But, I’m not an expert on how the CBA, the uncapped year, or the new CBA would work, so I could be wrong.

If the Browns make any kind of signing on the free agent market, this signing makes sense. You don’t rebuild a team through free agency, you do it through the draft and get your final pieces through free agency.

Peppers would represent a “final piece” on what ended up being a pretty solid defensive line last year before the injury bug bit.

Either way, the offseason rumor mill is up and running, and nothing is too speculative to dismiss right now.