Alright guys, it appears that the conspiracy theories about wanting to get a load of picks to trade for Julius Peppers were true. According to NFL senior columnist Vic Carucci, we are part of the wicked master plan that Bill Belichick has thrown together for this offseason to get the Patriots refueled and ready for the regular season. According to the story, the Patriots are considering trading the 34th pick in the NFL draft over to the Panthers for Julius Peppers. Even though it is highly below his market value, the Panthers are said to welcome the trade because of salary cap reasons.
We still will not have a 1st round pick, but having a 34th pick in the draft will get us a 1st round caliber player. Someone will slip for whatever reason, and we'll pick him up in an instant.
Don't expect any free agent help. By now there are very few quality defensive linemen out there. I imagine that we'll call around and work a few guys out to try to find the diamond in the rough, but it isn't looking too good to expect that much help there. The only notable free agent still available off the top of my head is Jason Taylor, but once again you have the salary cap issues. We don't have any money to afford a huge signing. We have just enough money to get one or two lesser known guys and hope that they'll rise to become the unknown star.
Onto the draft, if I were to dream up the perfect situation for us, I could imagine the Panthers drafting a DE as the 34th pick to replace Julius Peppers. With a good pick later in the 2nd round, they can solidify either the offensive or defensive lines. The 3rd round sounds ideal to draft a good corner, and we'll probably pick up a QB as well in the later rounds. I fully, fully expect this draft to center around the defensive line. They started out good early last year and then they collapsed along the stretch. If we can pull out one good solid producer or two out of the draft, then I think with the talented linebackers we have this year that we'll be able to make due until the uncapped year in 2010 when all hell breaks loose.
You can read Vic Carruci's article here and see for yourself. Keep your eyes and ears open folks! This trade should happen very soon, or at least before the start of the draft.
UPDATE: Inside the Panthers blog denies the Peppers talk. I'm ready to chalk it up as the Panthers covering their tracks though. I've said this before, and I'll say it once more: the Panthers will never come out and openly admit that they are shopping Peppers. The instant they do that, Peppers value goes down. Sure the Patriots are interested in Pep, they have every right to be. But there are other teams interested in the Pep as well.