It's Time to Play Hardball!

Chris Matthews, if you’re reading this, your assistance is requested in Charlotte.

The Carolina Panthers are winding down the clock (more like milking the play clock) of the Jordan Gross-Julius Peppers-Franchise Tag game that has been going on since the end of the regular season.

Simple – sign Jordan Gross and then use the franchise tag on Peppers, right?  Wrong.

Our friend, Tom Sorensen over that the Charlotte Observer broke this piece of news earlier this afternoon:

Carolina Panthers defensive end Julius Peppers will agree to be traded to only four teams, three of them in the NFC, a source said.

Two are teams the Panthers will not want to trade him to, the source said.

This implies that the two teams are in the NFC South, the division in which the Panthers play.

The source also says that there are issues that could impede a trade to the other two teams such as compensation for the Panthers and potential contract problems for Peppers.

In other words, the teams might not have a high first-round pick to offer Carolina, and might not have the money to pay Peppers.

Wait.  It gets even more complicated.  Check out the rest after the jump.

Darin Gantt of the Rock Hill Herald filed this report:

According to sources with knowledge of his intent, Peppers has a list of just four teams to which he’s willing to accept a trade. Only one is in the AFC, and another is Dallas, which lacks a first-round pick the Panthers would be seeking in any deal. The other two are believed to be NFC South opponents, to which the Panthers would be hesitant to move their disgruntled star.

Peppers’ agent, Carl Carey, said Wednesday he hasn’t hear from the Panthers yet, and doesn’t know when he will.

Assuming they won’t deal Peppers to a division foe, their other possibilities are limited. Dallas gave up this year’s first-round pick to Detroit in last year’s trade for wide receiver Roy Williams. The Cowboys run the 3-4 defense Peppers wants to play in, and have enough playmakers around him he wouldn’t be the center of attention.

Assuming that Dallas is one of the teams and two others are NFC South teams, who is the fourth?  It has to be a team with little available compensation either in draft picks or money under the cap.  Do the math with me for a minute here.

Peppers wants to go somewhere else but now he has some leverage about where he will go because he’ll have to be able to work out a new contract with his new team.  This, in effect, gives him right of first refusal.

But he also said he wants to play in a 3-4 (Dallas is the only known 3-4 team on the list).  The problem is that any team he chooses in the NFC South would break the rule about playing for a 3-4 defense since Atlanta, New Orleans and Tampa Bay all employ a 4-3.

I’m smelling something here.  It doesn’t have a very good odor either.

This sounds like Peppers and his agent, Carl Carey, are playing hardball.  They are holding out for the right situation and the right money, of course.  They just don’t want to have the franchise tag used.  If it is used on Peppers, they appear prepared to make life a living hell for the Panthers.

If a deal is reached with Jordan Gross in the remaining hours piror to the deadline, let’s hope that the tag is used on Julius Peppers.  If he’s willing to negotiate in good faith, fine.  If not, let him sit out the ’09 season and we can all do this again 12 months from now.

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Tags: Atlanta Falcons Carl Carey Carolina Panthers Dallas Cowboys Jordan Gross Julius Peppers New Orleans Saints Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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