The ugly truth is out there. Julius Peppers wants out. He wants to play for a team that employs a 3-4 defense. We all know that John Fox isn’t going to wake up tomorrow morning and change his entire defensive philosophy. That means the Carolina Panthers will start ’09 without their star defensive end.
Where does that leave us? It leaves us with only a handful of teams that could be potential suitors for the pass rusher this off season – provided he is released or traded.
Let’s take a look at each of them. We assume with each that Peppers is a free agent.
Green Bay Packers
Here is a team that doesn’t use a 3-4 but they did just hire Dom Capers as their new defensive coordinator and Dom is a 3-4 kind of guy. Here are some thoughts from DJ over at Lombardi Avenue.
Signing Peppers would allow the team to move [Cullen] Jenkins back to defensive tackle, allowing him to team with Johnny Jolly, Ryan Pickett, and Colin Cole, and push injury-riddled super-bust Justin Harrell out of the lineup until the Packers can finally figure out what’s wrong with him. Teaming Peppers with Kampman would give opposing offensive lines and offensive coordinators headaches for weeks. Peppers, being the freak athlete he is, could be used as the fourth linebacker as well, adding more versatility to the defense. The Packers would be able to have their top four linebackers, Nick Barnett, A.J. Hawk, Brady Poppinga, and Brandon Chillar, on the field at the same time. Young Desmond Bishop would also get more time to see the field.
Why Peppers Might be Interested: Who could resist the thought as a player to line up every Sunday on the Frozen Tundra? With all that history and the Lambeau leap it could be a football player’s dream.
Why Peppers Might Not be Interested: Cold. Peppers is a North Carolina guy. That’s hardly Wisconsin we’re talking about here. Plus, the Packers aren’t known as big free agency spenders and they might not pony up the cash necessary to lure him there.
If this happens, we can all become Peppers haters overnight. Still, there is a 3-4 defense already in use in the Big D and lots of other talent already in place. We get this from Dan at The Landry Hat.
Now forget about money and the salary cap and the priority of signing DeMarcus Ware for right now and think about this for a minute: Peppers said he has interest in playing for several teams, but he won’t name what teams they are. The Cowboys have Greg Ellis and now a troubled Anthony Spencer on the other side of Ware. Would Carolina like these players for Peppers, who is dying to play in a 3-4 defense and have a similar role as Ware?
Why Peppers Might be Interested: Once again – history. Plus this is a franchise that still holds a certain mystique whether they’ve won a playoff game in this century or not.
Why Peppers Might Not be Interested: Peppers is a quiet guy. He’s introverted. Would he want to face the media scrutiny that comes with playing in Dallas and their over-inflated egos?
Not every city has a song written about it. Will Smith sure made it sound good, didn’t he? Throw in a young team with a player’s coach and Bill Parcells in the front office and you could have a match. The Dolphins also employ a 3-4.
Why Peppers Might be Interested: Warm weather, beaches, bikinis and thongs. Yikes! The aforementioned youth and a hungry team could be major draws. There is also history with this franchise and accounting for the wild card in Parcells is tough.
Why Peppers Might Not be Interested: Would this be too far from home? Peppers grew up in NC and has spent his entire life there. Maybe he wants to get away from home, though. Should we also consider Parcells as a reason to not want to go to Miami?
Dick Lebeau and that Steelers defense look formidable. This is a 3-4 to end all 3-4 defenses. And can you say Super Bowl? Win or lose in two weeks we all know this is a very good football team.
Why Peppers Might be Interested: History and the thought of going to a winner are major selling points. Plus, playing for a guy as creative with his defensive schemes as Lebeau could be a tremendous draw.
Why Peppers Might Not be Interested: Cold, snow, wind, sleet – just a few of the elements to be played in during the season. And Pittsburgh isn’t a big free agent destination since they normally don’t over spend.
New England Patriots
Would we hate him more in a Patriots uniform? We might but this could be a very attractive place to play even with the bellicose Bill Belichick in charge. They just missed the playoffs this season and are perennial Super Bowl contenders
Why Peppers Might be Interested: Winning can be an attractive thing to a player. Going to a contender would be an option most pros would choose. And why not play where Super Bowl banners are hanging?
Why Peppers Might Not be Interested: Cold. You bet. Belichick doesn’t have much to say but neither does Peppers. Who would talk first?
The Ravens just came within a game of the Super Bowl. They have a young, energetic coach but their defense is getting a little long in the tooth at key positions.
Why Peppers Might be Interested: If Ray Lewis leaves, Peppers would be relied on heavily and could really emerge as a star in Baltimore. If Ray Ray stays it would open things up even more for the defensive end.
Why Peppers Might Not be Interested: Is the killer instinct in Julius to match the way the rest of the Ravens defense plays? How he would fit in could come into question.
San Diego Chargers
Shawn Merriman should be back to help an already talented team. The Chargers may have backed into the playoffs but the personnel are in place to make a run at anytime.
Why Peppers Might be Interested: Beautiful weather and SoCal. Plus, they may have under achieved but they still have the talent to win it all.
Why Peppers Might Not be Interested: An entire continent away from his family? Do we know how close J-Pepp is to them?
Everything about this organization screams of being unsettled. A new coach in Eric Mangini and far too many losses this season add up to what could be a bad spot to play.
Why Peppers Might be Interested: There is talent on this roster despite their record. But the defense will have to be retooled and Pepp could be the guy who stands out.
Why Peppers Might Not be Interested: With so much retooling to do, there might not be enough talent around him in Cleveland to take the pressure off and open it up for him.
New York Jets
Another under-performing team. But Rex Ryan, their new coach brings a defensive attitude to the Big Apple. An who can’t become a star in New York City?
Why Peppers Might be Interested: If he’s wants to be recognized and become a media giant, this is his place. We could just as easily list this is a drawback. Plus, money flows in New York when a big name free agent is available.
Why Peppers Might Not be Interested: There are big changes ahead with this team. Winning could be a year or two away. And the pressures of playing in New York could wear on anybody.