Peppers looking for escape hatch

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Since the offseason officially started yesterday, we’re getting revved up here with the possibilities, and let’s start with an area representing the Patriots’ biggest problem — Pass rush.

Julius Peppers-to-Foxboro ain’t exactly a new idea. But it continues to be worth watching.

Yesterday, Peppers hooked up with WFNZ-AM in Charlotte and said that he’s not looking for a long-term deal from the Panthers, which means there’s a heck of a chance the Patriots will have a fair shot at landing him come March.

“Because of the lack of communication, that they’ve had with us, if
somebody asks me ‘Do I want to stay in Carolina and play for the
Panthers next year?,’ it’s like ‘OK, well, how can you say you want to
be somewhere if you’re not really sure if they want you,” Peppers said, via Darin Gantt of the Rock Hill Herald. “They’re not even talking to me,
so why would I come out and say I want to be here, when the team is not
even acknowledging the fact that my future with the organization is up
in the air.”

Peppers’ franchise number — 120 percent of the $16.683 million he made under last year’s tag — is $20.020 million for 2010. And that makes it unlikely the Panthers tag him again. But Gannt brings up the interesting possibility in his story that they tag Peppers with the intent to trade him.

In the past, that would’ve narrowed Peppers’ options. But in this strange new world of no cap, it might actually widen them. Because of the “final eight rule” restricting each of the conference semifinalists, Peppers might be kept away from some of the more attractive places in the league if he were to become a UFA. If he’s on the trade market, there are contenders that could use him (Hello New Orleans and Arizona) and wouldn’t have to worry about the rules getting in the way.

Anyway, it would make sense that the Panthers would want to get something — anything — for one of the league’s most gifted players. And so it might cost more than truckload of up-front cash to get him to New England, or anywhere else.

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