Carolina Panthers defensive end Julius Peppers is set to highlight the free agent class of 2010. And while he'll garner a considerable amount of attention from around the league, you have to wonder whether the Miami Dolphins will be as eager to sign him as some of the NFL's other passing-rusher deficient teams.
Last season, incumbent starting outside linebackers Joey Porter and Jason Taylor led the Dolphins in sacks with nine and seven, respectively. Porter is scheduled to be released for a multitude of reasons on March 5, while Taylor is already set to be a free agent.
That leaves Miami with limited options at the position and little experience in the way of pass-rushers. Second-year CFL import Cameron Wake showed some progress with five sacks in his rookie year, but he's still pretty raw and struggles outside of his role as a QB hunter.
Veterans like Charlie Anderson and Quentin Moses are decent backup options, but wouldn't go long before being seriously exposed if cast as starters. Erik Walden and J.D. Folsom have potential, but they are still very much developing.
The Dolphins can't go into the season this way. They need to spend some draft picks on linebackers to bolster the unit, and apply a band-aid or two in free agency at the least.
Peppers will come with a hefty price tag, one that will be inflated with a starved market. Guaranteed money somewhere between $30-40 million is probably what he's looking for. And that's exactly what, if not more, some team out there will pay the 30-year-old veteran.
Money like that might be just a little too expensive for Parcells and company's tastes, but should it be? Miami has shown a lot of interest in Arizona Cardinals inside linebacker Karlos Dansby who is expected to be amongst the free agents suitors in the coming days.
Dansby is reportedly looking for $30 million in guaranteed money, though. From what's been happening, it appears that might be something the Dolphins are exploring to invest in.
It's odd that same interest doesn't appear to be out there for Peppers. At 28, Dansby is only two years younger than the All-Pro end, and at middle linebacker doesn't fill as great a need for the team.
As for Peppers, at 6'7" and 283 lbs, he seems like a perfect fit to transition to outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense, as opposed to defensive end in a 4-3 formation.
For his size, Peppers is extremely agile and can be explosive off the ball. He has elite speed off the edge and as a pass rusher has a wide assortment of techniques to shed blockers.
His run support is solid and there aren't any issues in pass protection—five passes defended and two interceptions. Playing upright, it would be very difficult for opposing teams to control Peppers once he got going.
There have been concerns about his concentration and effort at times, and his consistency throughout a season can waver, but Peppers is still an elite pass-rusher in the NFL. There are few guys who can match his career 81 sacks and 10.1 sacks-per-season average.
Playing behind Randy Starks, Kendall Langford, and Philip Merling will only help keep those numbers up for Peppers. He talked last season about wanting to move on from Carolina's defensive scheme and transition into a 3-4 defense. Peppers thinks he would excel in a new role on the outside.
While Bill Parcells and Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland probably don't doubt that, his price-tag and age could be what prevents them from going after the five-time Pro Bowl selection.
It shouldn't though. Not if Miami is targeting players like Karlos Dansby. Peppers should be in that same discussion.