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Who will land Peppers?

And so there I was on vacation. I was in relative isolation in the hills of North Georgia. I was happy, able to get away from the cares of the world and just enjoy myself. For the first time in three months, I didn't care about football. Other than a few hours watching the Cardinals beat down the Eagles in a dominating fashion before turning off the TV, I haven't paid attention to anything going on in Charlotte.

I determined that I couldn't be missing much. I might pop back to the news that this player or that player had been resigned, but I didn't expect anything else. But to come back to Julius Peppers of all people stirring up a controversy? I mean, is this not Julius Peppers, the man that was known as one of the quietest people on the team? Lead with his actions rather than his words? Is this not the man that Jerry Richardson himself asked to step up and lead the team when Mike Minter and Mike Rucker both retired?

Obviously we've found out that he has a darker side. After his 2.5 sacks last year and his comments earlier this week, he's seeming less the consistent producer every year, and more the man in a black cloak speaking through his henchman Carl Carey behind the curtains plotting dark deeds. After all, last year's production suddenly makes sense if Peppers didn't want to play in Carolina. After his latest comments, Peppers is quickly earning himself a black reputation in Carolina that he will leave here when he goes to his new team. People will not like him, and that's what he deserves after spending 7 years with the Panthers (4 Pro-Bowls) and then saying that the coaching staff "Aren't allowing him to live up to his potential."

Give me a break.

My stance on Julius Peppers haven't wavered since the off-season, and this only supports it further. We have to franchise him. If we're going to lose such a great player, it would be madness to not try to get some compensation for him.

Peppers is a freakish athlete, one that can play the game into his middle 30's if he wishes. He won't play well for us during the season if he stays here, but he's simply too good to allow him to hit free agency. If I were the Panthers, I would try to get Jordan Gross to sign to a multiyear contract as soon as possible and then sign Peppers to a franchise tag to use him as trade bait. Jared Allen was traded from the Chiefs to the Vikings for a 1st round pick and two 3rds just last year. Julius Peppers is a bit older than him so his value goes down, but he would command at least a 1st and 3rd rounder if he was traded right now.

We're going to have to wait a while though. The trading and free agency period opens Feb. 27th. Mark that on your calendars. In the meantime, we get a little over a month to watch the mud start slinging between the Panthers and Peppers. Sounds like enough to keep us busy right?

The big question is, who would want Peppers?

Houston Texans

It is my own personal conspiracy theory that Carey might be influencing Peppers to sign away from the Panthers, and what better place to do it than with Houston? Honestly, this may be the best thing to happen. The Texans have the #15 pick in the NFL Draft, and the guy across the line from Mario Williams has zero sacks for the season. You heard me! Zero Sacks. I bet anything that the Texans would love to have a player like Julius Peppers to pair with Mario Williams, and the Panthers should waste no time in getting this deal done. The only knock against this deal is that the Texans have a 4-3 defense, not the preference of Peppers.

Atlanta Falcons

Once again, not a 3-4 defense. But the Falcons are a playoff team with a lot of salary cap space. Signing Peppers beside Abraham would be a instant upgrade to this defense. They have the draft picks to do it, but they could definitely pay Peppers his fat contract if they wanted him.

The 49ers

They're a possibility. A 3-4 team that is a big player or two away from the playoffs. Sound familiar? However, they're a long shot at best. They have more pressing needs at this point.

Miami Dolphins

Same reasons as above, except with Peppers they'd have a shot at the Super Bowl with Peppers and a couple other key additions. Tony Sparano is an aggressive coach, and I wouldn't be surprised if he tried to nab the replacement for Jason Taylor.

Baltimore Ravens

Once again a 3-4 defense, once again a team that has more pressing needs at this point. They're also a good choice if Peppers really wants to play linebacker, as Ray Lewis is getting close to retirement and will need a replacement. However, I don't see why they would make a huge splash in a trade for Peppers, but it's nevertheless a fit if he somehow makes it to FA.

Buffalo Bills

This team just needs any sort of pass rush, and the team finished just below a Top 10 defense without one. The Bills are desperate for a rush, and desperate times call for desperate measures. The Bills have the #11 pick in the draft and there are plenty of good DE's to take Peppers spot at that position. The Bills could make a push for Peppers if they wanted him. They'd have to talk him into a 4-3 defense again, but Peppers would be an immediate contributor to a struggling D-Line.

Bengals, Broncos, Raiders,
the same reason as above.

In the end, we don't have any choice but to give Peppers up. Our goal the next month should be to set ourselves up into a position where we can get something out of it. A first round pick is a must.