You could make an easy argument that if the Panthers don't trade disgruntled DE Julius Peppers by the start of the draft on Saturday then no trade will happen at all. Just about all the major pundits say Peppers just simply isn't worth the price in draft picks and contract dollars for a deal to happen. In spite of all that negativity I still won't be able to wonder pick by pick if a block buster trade isn't about to be announced. So I got to thinking about which specific picks might something happen and free us from the shackle that is Peppers.
#5 Cleveland Browns - Given the Browns picked and paid two 1st round picks last year might be enough for them to trade this one for a sure fire Pro Bowler. They run a 3-4, have a decent nucleus of a team and could make a playoff run this year if they can get a pass rushing star. On the flip side I can't see why Pep would want to go to Cleveland assuming they are not on his list.
#9 Green Bay Packers - The Packers switch to a 3-4 defense should be intriguing and I'm sure they might want a sure-fire performer like Peppers. With former Panther DC Mike Trgovac now the Packers DL coach, is that a positive or negative on this scenario? Again this scenario seems highly unlikely.
#12 Denver Broncos - The Broncos might feel the need to add the star power Peppers would bring to appease a fan base still smarting from the Jay Cutler fiasco. They have the 3-4 defense, the picks and the cap space to make it work. The final question again is would Peppers go ‘mile high'?
#17 New York Jets - Going to New York would reunite Peppers with his old buddy Kris Jenkins, who I think initiated the bad feelings in Carolina and got this whole ‘maxed out' thing started. The biggest question here is whether the Jets would pay the price for his services.
#20 Detroit Lions - The Lions have the money and draft picks to make a deal but again, the thought of Peppers shunning 12-4 Carolina to go to 0-16 Detroit can't possibly result in the formula for ‘maxing his potential'.
#21 Philadelphia Eagles - The Eagles are rumored to be one of the 4 teams on Peppers ‘preferred' list and up until trading for LT Jason Peters they had the immediate draft picks. Because of that trade it now seems less likely the Eagles would be willing or able to pull off another big trade.
#23 New England Patriots - The Patriots remain the most likely landing destination for Peppers but as shrewd as both of these franchises can be it doesn't seem likely anymore. Regardless you can bet I will be apprehensive up until this pick is complete.
#25 Miami Dolphins - This is my sleeper scenario even though this type of trade does not fit in Bill Parcels MO. Regardless I'm positive he is desperate for another star pass rusher opposite Joey Porter. They have the picks and money to make this deal and Miami is a contender in the AFC, which would have to make them attractive to Peppers. Parcels has to be loathing the thought of Peppers ending up in Boston which should be incentive enough for Parcels to at least consider a deal.
There is a remaining scenario that a team could sign Peppers to an offer after the draft thereby deferring compensation to the 2010 and 2011 drafts. I don't think that has ever happened in the NFL and it would surely create some bad blood between the Panthers and the other franchise. Again, a very unlikely scenario.
Barring a blockbuster trade in the next four days Peppers is going to come back to Carolina with his tail between his legs and the certain flurry of questions from the media, fans and his teammates about why a deal didn't get done. I wouldn't be surprised either if the fan base pelts him with a chorus of boos on opening day and then subsequently blames him for every loss the Panthers suffer in 2009. Yes, I'm pretty convinced Peppers wants this to get done now. The sonner the better for all involved.