We all knew it was coming. It was only a matter of time. Julius Peppers may have teased us early by saying the problems that he had last year with this team no longer exist, but deep in our guts we knew that this thing wasn't over. As the off-season dragged along, we eagerly awaited for the news.
Finally, the first layer of story hit us this weekend. Carl Carey, who I'm convinced is the spawn of a wicked union between the Grinch and Dr. Evil, declared via the Charlotte Observer that the Panthers have 'moved on' with the intent of allowing Peppers to become an unrestricted free agent.
That article I posted the link to gives you most of the information that you need to know. However, for those whom don't feel like reading through it all, I'll go ahead and narrow it down for you so that you all understand the situation going on here. Feel free to skim through it if you already know about the contract situation.
If the Panthers have a few options to deal with Julius Peppers.
The first is a contract extension. This first option is pretty well cut and dry, the General Manager and the Head Coach meet and communicate with a player's agent in some form or another and the two sides come up with a agreement. They sign a contract, and that player belongs with the team for x number of years for y amounts of dollars per year.
Their second option is where it gets tricky: The Franchise tag. The franchise tag is a special contract option given to each NFL team to assign to a player if they desire it. The tag is a minimum of the top 5 salaries at the player's position or 120% of the player's previous year's salary, whichever is greater. In seasons past, each NFL team was only granted one of these tags, but since this year will be an uncapped year, each team will get two instead of one. If Peppers gets one of these tags, it would give him a one year offer of more than 20 million dollars since we franchised him for 16 million dollars last year. Once Julius Peppers signed it, he would become a member of the organization and he will play for the Panthers in 2010.
If the Panthers sign Peppers to a long term deal or he signs the tag, they could then trade him for draft pick compensation or other players with other teams in the NFL. As the 3rd option, they could also just cut him and move on with their team. In that case, they would receive a 3rd round compensation pick in the 2011 NFL Draft.
That's the basic situation in a nutshell. Long story short, Julius Peppers is a great player and the Panthers want to keep him. We went through a lot of crap in order to keep him last year, and we would not have done that if we wanted to let Peppers go off to free agency. Julius Peppers is a unique talent. He's simply a beast. You do not want to get rid of one of the best players in the NFL unless you get some kind of compensation for him. That's just one of the unwritten rules of the NFL. We can argue his value all we want, but I'm sure we can all come to an agreement that he is worth more than the 3rd round compensation we get if he simply walks out into free agency.
I have a theory about this situation. I've been thinking about this situation for a long time now. For the sake of humor, let's call it the "Carl Carey is a girlyman" theory. This is what I believe: Carl Carey smells money. That's what this situation has been about since the very beginning. Money. Carl Carey has a lot to gain if Julius Peppers hits free agency, and gains very little if the Panthers keep him on their team.
Imagine this for a moment. A month from now, Julius Peppers is released to free agency and sets the entire NFL community abuzz. What does he gain? First off, Carl gets a ton of publicity. He gets to be out in the spotlight and have the entire media watching his every move as he guides Peppers through the intense process of signing with a new team. For once, he has the entire NFL community watching over him. He likes that, and that publicity is a wonderful thing because it allows Carl to get his name out there to the new breed of talent coming out of the NFL Draft. Players who have not taken an agent yet will hear of situation and say to themselves "Wow! Look at that big fat contract that Carl got Julius this offseason! That's the guy I want to represent me!"
This may be the last season for rookies to get a big contract until the rookie pay scale in 2011. in fact, this may be the deepest drafts we may ever have in terms of talent. Everyone is rushing into the 2010 draft for the big contract. They know that if the wait till 2011, they'll get paid like a rookie. So what happens if Carl gets a ton of publicity from the Peppers situation and gets his name out there to the NFL rookies? Do you realize the amount of money that he can squeeze out of this?
Not only will Carl get his cut from a huge Peppers contract, but he'll also get to be able to sign on to a bunch of rookies in the 2010 draft and get tons of contracts done with them as well. Those tons of contracts will translate to a ton of money for him, and Carl will be swimming in cash. He couldn't care less what happens to Julius Peppers and his career, all he wants is the money! People make fun of Carey. Heck, James the Aussie called him 'inexperienced' earlier today. But I don't think he's inexperienced. I think he's a grand schemer, and wants to turn the Peppers situation into something that will benefit him. As long as Peppers gets to free agency for the publicity and Peppers gets the big contract so that he Carl gets his cut out of it, he's happy. He can go to the new rookies and say "Hey! If you like the big contract I just got done with Peppers, just imagine what I can do for you!"
If I could give any advice to Julius Peppers, it would be this. You don't work for Carl Carey, he works for you. If you like Ron Meeks and want to stay with our defense, tell him to get a deal done before a certain date or you'll find yourself a new agent. If you don't like the Panthers and you want to go with another team, that's fine too! What you don't need to do is sit on your rear end and pretend everything is going to work out, then act suprised when you're sitting down with the Raiders, the Lions, or the Redskins when it comes time to get a job for the 2010 season. When this situation is all over, you need to put yourself in a position where you know you're going to be happy. Don't let Carl make that decision for you. This is a situation that will define the rest of your career, so you need to make the right one.
As Muhsin Muhammad and Kris Jenkins found out, the grass is not always greener on the other side.