5 players the Panthers shouldn’t have let get away in franchise history

(Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports) Steve Smith
(Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports) Steve Smith /
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Carolina Panthers
(Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports) Julius Peppers /

Julius Peppers – Former Carolina Panthers DE

The Carolina Panthers’ dismal season in 2001 at least came with a silver lining. It gave them the No. 2 overall selection and the chance to bring hometown hero Julius Peppers to the franchise.

Peppers was a dominant figure from the moment he stepped onto the field. His size, length, and physicality made him almost impossible to stop and when the lineman was in full flow, there was little anybody could do to prevent him from wreaking havoc.

The former North Carolina standout was looking to get paid handsomely after becoming one of the league’s most feared defenders. Something the Panthers couldn’t agree upon and there was nothing short of an uproar when the player left for the Chicago Bears in 2010 free agency.

This was swiftly followed by an All-Pro selection in his first year with the organization. Carolina treaded water without Peppers, but things were never quite the same along the defensive front despite some happy times during the 2010s.

Peppers spent four seasons in Chicago and three with the Green Bay Packers before finding his way back to the Panthers. Although he was far from the force of old, there were still plenty of memorable moments before the legendary figure hung up his cleats for good.

There is no doubt that Peppers is one of the most gifted players in franchise history. In an ideal world, he would have been a lifer, but money trumps all in the NFL.