Call this the dawn of the Carolina Panthers A.P. (after Peppers).
When Carl Carey, Julius Peppers’ agent, released a statement to ESPN on Saturday, he set off not only a firestorm of reactions from the media and the fans, he also began what likely could be a messy divorce that will play out before our very eyes.
General Manager Marty Hurney expressed his disappointment and probably feels cheated on since the team offered Pepp a contract during the season that would have made him the highest paid defensive player in the NFL. The numbers were believed to be in the $13 million per year range.
John Fox made a statement as well. He said that the team never held him back. What’s more troubling is that Peppers has insinuated that Carolina somehow stunted his growth and that he wasn’t put in position to succeed but he never told the coaches this.
If you want messy, look no further than Charlotte.
This leaves the team with choices to make no matter how tough they are. Quietly and privately, Hurney and Fox may stew over this but publically they have to hold firm. But what options do they have?
Let Him Go - This is the least likely option of all. If the team doesn’t make an effort to sign Peppers or to franchise him, they lose a player with tremendous value and get nothing in return. Call this the final option since the chances of this happening aren’t very good. Besides, if it does there may be an angry mob outside of Bank of America Stadium waiting for the coach and GM.
Negotiate - The contract has been written up for months and the numbers escalated to a height that would give even the most blood-thirsty of agents nose bleeds. But Julius turned it down. For those who want Peppers to remain a Panther, this is what they want – to sign him long term. It’s very unlikely that a deal could be reached and even the thought of sitting down to discuss numbers could make an already bad situation worse.
Franchise Him And Keep Him – This could happen but if it does it might produce little if anything. Considering that Peppers wants out, even a $17 million payday for one year won’t motivate him. That’s the amount of money the team would owe him if they place the franchise tag on him. For a guy who is visible only part of the time on the field and who does a disappearing act the rest of the time, locking the door on him could lead to locker room division if he isn’t happy. This is assuming, of course, that Peppers didn’t hold out if franchised.
Franchise Him and Trade Him – Now we’re getting somewhere. This is the most likely scenario and the best of the bunch. Anybody remember Jared Allen? He’s one of the reasons the Panthers had such trouble in Minnesota in week three. Kansas City used this exact fix for his situation. They received a first rounder and two third rounders from the Vikings. Peppers is worth every bit of that. The team could place the franchise tag on him and even allow him and his agent to seek a team willing to pay the price. This might be a win-win for both sides.
We can debate the options all day. The problem is that there aren’t that many of them. No matter what happens, choices have to be made and the Carolina Panthers A.P. have to make them – no matter how tough they are.
On Monday, we’ll look at the teams that could be potential destinations.